Tag Archives: Minnesota


Some people in Grand Marais love to perch creepy mannequins or dolls in upstairs windows.

I’m not sure if this is suposed to be funny, frightening or transforming, as in – “I’m lost in time, visiting this little town and, oh look, there’s a person in a nightdress looking out at the harbor.”

What I mean is this:

A creepy mannequin looks out a window in Grand Marais, Minnesota.

This is a mannequin that was perched in a second-story window over a shop. It was a male mannequin, which perhaps my limited drawing skills don’t portray properly, that had a long-haired, white wig perched on its head.

Ben Franklin?

Norman Bates?

My cross-dressing neighbor?

The mannequin was wearing a very fancy nightshirt and grinning out to sea; Lake Superior to be more exact. In my mind, I’ve made a scenario in which these shop owners were hoping to create a tableaux in which a wistful wife waits for her sailor husband to return from a long voyage. Unfortunately, they only had a male mannequin and a wig from some long-ago Halloween with which to make it happen.

When I see things like this, I imagine  the particular day someone set this up in the window. Think of the time involved. Get the wig, dress the dummy in the period-appropriate nightgown and then run down to the street to look up and see if it’s placed to your satisfaction. And then… wander off to watch TV or something, I guess. Judging from the dusty look and the faded nightshirt, this all happened in 1991 and has remained, frozen in time, since.

Just The Way It Is: Thoughts On Deer Hunting

This past weekend was the opening of deer hunting (gun) season in Minnesota. As a vegetarian with 10+ years of meat-free smugness under my belt, you’d think I’d be against such an activity, but I’m not. The main reason for this is my dad, a lifelong deer hunter.

I’ve never been hunting. I was the girl who cried during Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom whenever an animal (usually something of the deer-ish variety) got attacked and eaten by a predator.

“That’s the way nature is,” my dad would say, but I wasn’t having it.

One Christmas, my dad wrapped up a rifle and put it under the tree. He played it off as a big joke when I opened it but part of him wanted me to unwrap it, hug its cold barrel to my chest and then jump up and down yelling, “When can we go shoot? Huh, Dad? When can we go out and kill things?”

What actually happened: I think I looked at him and rolled my eyes.

Still, I grew up in deer hunting culture. Every November, kids (boys) in my class were excused from school to go off deer hunting with their dads. This strikes me now as a big injustice to those of us (girls) who had to attend school but at the time it didn’t faze me. On Thanksgiving morning, my dad would be getting back from hunting with my uncles and cousins by the time my sister and I were up watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

My dad, who owned a produce store, had the space and facilities to process deer for other people. For several years, it was normal for me to walk over to our store, go in the back door and see several deer strung up by their hindquarters, tongues hanging out, dark eyes like marbles. More would be stowed in the walk-in cooler. My dad and grandfather worked at cutting the deer up, their cover-alls coated in blood. There were barrels filled with the discarded deer parts and sometimes one of our dogs would be brave enough to jump up and grab a discarded leg, running back to our yard with the furry spindle, capped by a hoof, in its mouth.

Last week, I was watching the local evening news and they had a story on about hunters getting ready for the big weekend. The first part of the story was about how much hunting costs (apparently, too damn much). This had never occurred to me because it’s not a complaint my father would ever make. You went to Fleet Farm and bought what you needed and it lasted you for 10 years (more like 25+ years).

You didn’t need fancy equipment or an ATV; you carried your deer out on your back if you had to. My dad hunted on his own land and much of the best hunting took place in a  swamp. Carrying a deer out on your back while struggling through crotch-high swamp water can give guys a heart attack if they’re not healthy and strong and I believe this is one reason both of my grandfathers were eventually persuaded they should no longer go out.

The second part of the news story talked about how, despite the cost, hunting is rewarding. The people interviewed talked about how they couldn’t wait to get out to their tree stand – and take naps. Or sit and contemplate life. Or enjoy nature. This made me sad. It seemed as if all these people really needed was time at a secluded B&B or a wilderness resort but they thought it would make them less macho or maybe just strange, so they waited until deer season for an excuse to sit out in the woods and get their heads together.

I wanted to tell them that the woods is always there and one doesn’t need an excuse to go to it.

It might be that growing up on a farm is what made me a vegetarian – I took it in the opposite direction than a lot of people would. I grew up eating my fair share of hunted meat (deer, goose, duck, pheasant, rabbit, perch, walleye and, once, I think, squirrel) and I saw death. I watched my grandfather chop the heads off chickens and let them run for a few seconds before collapsing. I found dead cats in our barn. I poked at dismembered rabbits, killed by our dogs, with sticks. Sometimes my dad would help another farmer butcher pigs and, while I was never present when the killing took place, I did find the maggot-filled cesspool where the discarded parts were buried.

My dad and I do have disagreements about when and how often animals have to meet their death at the hands of humans. For example, I don’t think the squirrels that ravage his bird feeder need to die. He does. And the last time I went home for a visit, he was luring deer to a spot in the woods with apples, then going out in the evening, climbing up a tree with his bow and waiting for them to show up for the delicious treats.

One rainy evening while sitting out in the stand he hit a deer with an arrow and it ran off into the mist. He was certain it was hurt enough to die but he couldn’t find it, not that night or the next morning.

“That’s a waste,” I said. “You killed it and now it’s going to rot in a field somewhere.”

“I can’t help it,” my dad said. “That’s just the way it is.” Sort of a “you win some/you lose some” attitude.

I found this drawing that sort of illustrates what happened except imagine that the arrow is sticking into the deer and then imagine it running away. And imagine it being dark and rainy and impossible to see all this:

But I could tell he felt a bit bad about it. If he kills something he does it mostly within the rules (as far as I know – ever since I found out in college that he used to burn old tires to get rid of them I guess I shouldn’t put anything past him) and wants to use the animal as food. I’m not such a bleeding heart that I don’t realize this has literally been going on since the beginning of humanity and will never stop until we run out of wild animals to hunt.

But then we’ll probably start in on the cows, if only we can teach them to walk through the woods and run away when they see us in order to make it feel like something of a fair(er) fight.

The Ghosts Of Minnesotan Preps Past

While paging through my copy of The Official Preppy Handbook, edited by Lisa Birnbach, as I’m wont to do from time to time, I came across the section titled “Where The Preps Are: A City By City Going Out Guide,” which is exactly what it says it is – a listing of cities and then a preppy establishment one could visit each day of the week.

I quickly flipped to the listings for Minneapolis/St. Paul. It was, as one might expect, a rather sad offering. We haven’t had any truly big prep action here since F. Scott Fitgerald left, but it inspired me to see if it might be possible to still visit the places listed (the list was compiled in 1980.)

Now, Ms. Birnback did come out with an updated preppy guide just last year, the great True Prep. Alas, Minnesota has not a mention in the book – no listings for vintage clothing stores, city clubs or even places to practice one’s shooting or go fishing! It’s a sad state of affairs and I can’t really blame her for the omissions.

In any case, here is a look at the prep hang-outs of the past in Mpls/St. Paul.

1. W.A. Frost & Company, 374 Selby Avenue, St. Paul

Description from book: St. Paul’s bid for acceptance. Proto-Prep. Pickups.

I was just there! The gorgeous patio was entirely full on a Thursday evening – both for dinner and on the bar side. We ended up sitting down in a nook in the basement and fetching our own drinks up at the bar when we wanted them, which was fine for us but not great for people watching. However, in true prep spirit, I ordered a Tom Collins and can highly recommend it. Overall, this establishment is alive and well and still a place for those striving for acceptance. I even saw a guy wearing yellow jeans, rolled up, with Sperry Top Siders standing across the street!

2. Haberdashery, 45 South 7th Street, Minneapolis

Description: Formerly the home (for more than half a century) of a very Prep clothing store, Hubert W. White, original brass and wood fittings still here. Bar.

Alas, the Haberdashery is no more. It is now the site of a Radisson, possibly the same Radissson where Marge meets her high school “friend” Mike Yanagita in the movie Fargo. This is sad to me because the Haberdashery sounds like a very cool place. I like the idea of clothing stores that also have a bar. Why not make getting a suit or dress an occasion?

When you say “Haberdashery” in the Twin Cities, most of us now think of another great store, Heimie’s Haberdashery in St. Paul, located at 400 St. Peter Street. This is definitely worth a visit if you’re a guy in the market for upscale, well-made clothing or an old-fashioned shave.

FYI, clothes with labels from Hubert W. White show up at Twin Cities estate sales and sometimes thrift stores quite often.

3. University Club, 420 Summit Avenue, St. Paul

Description: Traditional men’s club, fallen onto hard times, now (discreetly) open to the public, for dinner, lunch and room accommodations.

While not big on website design, the Club is indeed still going. Now, of course, it’s open to the ladies. In fact, it’s open to entire families. It is not, however, open to the public for dinner and lunch but anyone, presumably, can rent rooms there for events, like weddings, birthday parties, meetings of your secret society. Members can have dinner there in three different rooms – the Ramsey, the Club or the Fireside. I wish that last one was called Ironsides.

4. The Commodore, 79 Western Avenue, St. Paul

Description: Restored hotel, bar mecca of 1920’s  Prep revival. F. Scott Fitzgerald himself used to frequent the place. Need we say more?

The Commodore is part of the University Club’s holdings. It’s not open to the public; one cannot wander in and rent a room. It is available for events. From the website: “All four banquet rooms flow into each other and provide a lovely setting for luncheons, dinners and receptions of all kinds for up to 350 people.” The original Art Deco Bar has been preserved and is fabulous (it was untouched in the great explosion and fire at the Commodore in 1978!) For awhile, it was open on the first Monday of the month  for some sort of craft bazaar and cocktail hour that I always meant to go to simply to be able to see the room, but that has now ended.

Here is a pic from the website:

4. Windfield Potters, 210 S. E. 2nd Avenue, Minneapolis

Description: Cashing in on 1980’s Prep revival, this is the place to go for drinks at the end of the work week. Help is required to wear Weejuns, khakis and Lacostes.

This restaurant had quite a following back in the day – it currently has a Facebook group called Winfield Potters Friends for those who used to gather there. Alas, this place no longer exists. It’s now the site of an office building. However, they did preserve the large patio/courtyard that used to be a big summer hangout and you can go see it. There is a plaque there commemorating the site. Also, Windfield Potters was used for the interior shots for the bar in Beautiful Girls – you know that scene where they all end up singing “Sweet Caroline?” That interior is the restaurant (the exterior shot they show is actually a different location in Stillwater). So I guess if you want to get some idea of what it was like inside, you have to watch the movie.

Coincidentally, the co-0wner of the restaurant, David Potter Webb, just died. He owned several restaurants throughout the city  through the years and seems like he was a cool guy. His obituary is here, in the Star Tribune.

5. Calhoun Beach Club, 2730 W. Lake Street, Minneapolis

Description: Upwardly mobile lawyers, etc., play tennis, squash and swim. Built in 1920s, formerly a Grand Hotel. Since no golf, members mostly 25-40.

This place has been around for a long time. It’s now on the National Register of Historic Places and has served as everything from a social club, hotel, home to WTCN TV and radio stations, a home for the elderly to a sports club. Now it’s the site of a fitness club and luxury apartment homes. I love it when they call them “apartment homes,” as if just apartment implies something much less than one’s home. To go to the fitness club/spa/pool/what-have-you, one needs to be a member.

Of course you can have your wedding here (where can’t one have a wedding these days?) and you may opt for the Hidden Terrace if you’re having a smallish affair. Click here for a 360 degree view of said terrace.

However, you can get some of the ambiance of the place by eating at the street-level restaurant, which just became the Urban Eatery after being View after being Dixie’s Calhoun for a long time. I don’t think many preps hang here, per say, put if you squint your eyes I’m sure your fellow dinners will look like they are wearing Fair Isle cardigans with pearls or Lacoste shirts.

6. Woodhill Country Club, 200 Woodhill Road, Wayzata

Description: Private. Old-line. Highest proportion of real Preppies in area. Suburban.

Of course Woodhill is still there. Don’t be silly. It will be there long after America is no longer America. And the description still holds true – if you want true Preppiness in the TC, you really have to go out to Wayzata.

Wednesday Outlook: June 8, 2011

I started reading A Moveable Feast last night and it has set my brain on fire. First because I’ve had an idea for a series of funny shorts or “episodes” about Hemingway and Fitzgerald and I’m finding them to be just the sort of characters I imagined, with plenty of pathos and brilliance to play upon. But also because the book is quite the remedy for writing procrastination. Reading about Hemingway’s writing habits is both inspiring and guilt-inducing.

Of course, the world is a different place today than it was in 1920’s Paris but the fundamentals of getting writing done are the same. Have a routine. Have a ritual. Work just long enough that you accomplish good work for the day but quit when things are at an interesting point, giving you an impetus to show up at the page the next day. Then shut down that part of your brain and go about the business of living – go get a racing sheet, go to the cafes, get some exercise, look for good books to read and have a meal.

It sounds easy and decadent in a way – ah, the life of a writer in Paris. But underneath it all I suspect that it was a bit of a grind and plagued with self-doubt. This was before Hemingway had published a novel and was writing “journalism,” as he called it, and short stories. He read Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and supposedly was consumed with admiration and jealousy, knowing that he must attempt the same in order to move forward in his writing.

One a tiny scale, I’m having some of the same writer’s predicament. I don’t believe in writer’s block but I do believe in unhealthy, pathological procrastination and that’s what I’ve been experiencing. I’m within 20 pages of finishing a second draft of a screenplay that I believe to be good and interesting but I’ve stalled out. Every day I resolve to sit down with it and then find other things to do. Oh, the kitchen sink needs scrubbing. Time for a bike ride… For weeks I’ve told myself that it’s OK; that my subconscious is simply doing some “behind-the-scenes” work and it will all become clear soon enough but that’s a bunch of bullshit. Nothing will work itself out unless I sit there and stare at it, writing and deleting until something starts to stick.

I don’t know why I do this. I suspect it has a lot to do with the fear of failure. I already know that was was in my head when I started out is not what’s on the page and that’s a hard thing to reconcile. Why can’t the two match up? But that’s simply another fact of writing or any creative endeavor. They never match up. Or very rarely. Or maybe a scene or a page does and that’s all you get.

Often I’m puzzled by why people continue to revere Hemingway. Some of his writing leaves me not exactly cold but certainly cool. But A Moveable Feast allows a glimpse of vulnerability not often associated with him. Yes, he would stare out at the street and wonder if his stories would ever sell. Yes, he struggled daily with writing. But the heroic thing he did, more than the boxing, deep-sea fishing and African safaris was to show up, day after day, and keeping after it because it was simply his purpose in life.

Watching: The Larry Sanders show – started at Season 1 (1992) and moving along through the 85 episodes! Will probably break for third season of Breaking Bad, which came out on DVD on Tuesday.

Doing: Making a big collage and also screen printing a t-shirt (which will soon be featured on Not Shallow as part of 99 Projects). Also, taking a kettlebell class at Four Gates in Minneapolis – a relatively new studio with great instructors and a laid-back attitude.

Anticipating: Excited to see Midnight in Paris, the new Woody Allen film and to eat at Wise Acre Eatery in South Mpls!



Oh Yes, It’s Cougars Night!

One of my favorite recent bar ads from City Pages was from a bar named Cowboyz in Rockford, MN that advertised a Cougar Night. So now Cougar ladies get their own nights? Weirdly, it was from 6-8 p.m.

I would like to be walking through my neighborhood and see a posting for a Cougar Night on a telephone pole, the kind of spot usually reserved for garage sale signs and lost dog/cat notices.

Here is what it would look like (my Cougar Night charges cover for the ladies and not for the dudes!):

cougar night corky's blog

Not Dressed to Impress

Did I sound bitter in my last post? I can’t decide.

On Friday night, I was invited to attend a Hmong International Filmmakers Organization party in Brooklyn Park. I wasn’t sure what it entailed, exactly, because the call came on Thursday morning inviting us but there were some communication issues. What I understood from my conversation with an organization member was that the party was the next day and that they were pretty excited to have me attend (why the short notice, I never figured out). I received an e-mail with the address and an agenda for the evening. I noted that I was added as an agenda item (I was to be introduced at 8:53 p.m.)

Continue reading Not Dressed to Impress

That’s The Revolutionary Costume For Today

I’ve been intensely studying the Bouvier Beales lately to prepare for reviewing the Ordway’s staging of Grey Gardens, the musical, for TC Daily Planet.

My review and a short essay about why I love Little Edie Beale are now posted on the Daily Planet’s site for your reading pleasure.

In my quest for more knowledge of the Beales, I got a book called My Life at Grey Gardens: Thirteen Months and Beyond written by Lois Wright. Lois was a painter and palm-reader who had known the Bouvier Beales for a long time and actually lived at Grey Gardens while the Maysles Brothers were filming the documentary in 1973 (not sure on exact year but that’s about right – the film came out in 1975).

Continue reading That’s The Revolutionary Costume For Today