May 13, 2002
I fucking love Minneapolis. I'm sitting here in the public library, my laptop is resting on an ancient desktop that has seen maybe 30 years of wear, maybe 50. It's worn smooth by hundreds of thousands of hands. It's scarred and scratched and horribly ugly. There's nothing this old in LA, I'm sure of it. Outside of the window, downtown Minneapolis lies. I can see the Lumber Exchange from where I sit -- an enormous reddish stone and brick building leftover from Minneapolis's harbor days. I intend to get a gyro from a little Greek place in the basement later, provided the place still exists -- I wish I could remember it's name. They have the best gyros I've ever eaten, and they put everything I've found in Los Angeles to shame.
I didn't realize I missed Minneapolis until I got into town last night. I've been back to visit probably 3 times since I moved to LA almost 4 years ago (not counting my wedding, but it was October 2000, and cold, and I was so harried with wedding stuff I barely noticed the city at all) , but all of those visits have been in the dead of winter -- family holiday visits. It's easy to forget how wonderful the city is when it's buried under muddy snow, and the wind is whipping off the river at 40 miles an hour, and the thermometer says "-10," but your skin knows it's "-40." On those visits, sitting in the freezing car, waiting for the windows to defrost enough so that I can see to drive, it's easy to feel that moving to Los Angeles was the 100% right choice.
But, today it's different. It's cool for me -- high-fifties/low-sixties (my California blood is thin), but the sky is clear and beautiful. The wind is light, the new grass is green (hard to believe they had a six inch dump of snow a week or so ago), but the trees are still mostly bare, skeletal and beautiful against the old brick buildings of the warehouse district. I intend to spend the early part of the afternoon walking around downtown, then uptown, then, maybe, the Lake Calhoun area. Places I want to go see pop into my head one after another -- I'll never have time for them all, but maybe I can just drive past. My wife is wedding dress shopping with her best friend, so the afternoon and the red rental Chevy Tracker are all mine.
I'll have to stop at Schinder's, of course. My lunchtime hangout the entire time I worked in downtown Minneapolis, Schinder's is a big comic and magazine (and dirty books, if you are willing to be seen stepping through the big wooden "adults only" door) shop on the corner of Hennepin and ... I forget ... 3rd, maybe. The money I spent at that place on comics and role-playing games and CCGs is a horrible crime. It's an aging geek's dream, and a geek's wife's nightmare. I promised Shannon I wouldn't blow a huge wad of cash on comics and the like. We'll see how that goes. Sometimes, one cannot control one's actions, and, when I come home toting an armload of comics, I can always point at her closet full of Kate Spade purses and end the argument right there.
It's hard to pin down exactly the reason I feel so nostalgic about Minneapolis. It has to be more than beautiful architecture, a sense of time passed, good gyros and a comic shop. Most likely it's because I was young here. After college, this is where I came. It's where I got me first full-time job. It's where I got my first apartment -- a dark basement with a friend from University. It's where Shannon and I first lived together, in an apartment near Lexington and Larpenteur, back when things were more simple, and everything I owned could be piled into the back of my Dodge Caravan in less than an hour. It's where I did my first professional play, and watched Shannon in hers the next year at the same theater. It's where I got my first agent, and filmed my first short film, and dreamed of moving to the bright lights of Los Angeles, where I'd surely be famous within 6 months, a year at the most.
I don't regret moving to LA. I love it there. The weather is great, and Shan and I have a beautiful little house in the Valley. When my agent sends me out on an audition, it's for something big -- around each corner could be my big break: my feature film, my national commercial, my television series. When I do theater, there could be a producer in the audience, or a director, or a casting director who just happens to be looking for a tall, dark-haired, not quite beautiful best-friend/boyfriend not-quite-so-hunky Ben Affleck type for the next Law & Order or the West Wing. Minneapolis didn't offer that to me. It couldn't. I have more friends in LA now than I have here and, with Shan's parents splitting up and moving, I don't even really have any family here. And, most of all, I am happy being in LA. I don't think I felt that way here -- why would I have wanted to leave so badly if I had? LA was the right choice then, and it is the right place for me now. Still...
Still, when I do get my break -- when I (or Shannon) hit that fame-and-money threshold, maybe we'll get an apartment here, or a little house. We could visit whenever we want to, provided our busy shooting schedules would allow time away. And, when we got sick of sitting in traffic on the 101, cursing at the horrid California drivers, or dogging "falling rocks" in the canyons, we could say we live in Minneapolis -- we just keep the place in LA 'cause that's where the work is.
Even then, you won't find me here in the winter. Minneapolis is beautiful in the spring, the summer and fall, but winter sucks.
Okay. I wrote the above story at around 11:30 AM of the first day of my trip to Minneapolis. After I wrote the story, I went and got my gyro (the place, BTW, is the Trieste Cafe). The cafe was much seedier than I remembered, and, while my gyro was good, it was not as great as I'd built it up to be. Then, on my walk through downtown to Schinders, I witnessed not one, but three, drug deals (or, maybe it was just one deal to three guys -- I don't know how to properly count such things). To top it all off, the following two days were filled with cold wind and near-freezing rain, and, when I finally got home to sunny southern CA, everthing I'd taken with me (including my laptop!) reeked of cigarrette smoke, since apparently everyone in the midwest smokes like a chimney.
Now, this isn't to say that Minneapolis isn't a great town in my eyes -- it still is. But it's clear that a few really nice hours in the city caused me to over-romanticize my old home. The truth is, as much as I like Minneapolis, I love Los Ageles -- it's been my home now for a couple of years, and I am very happy here. Today I drove to work with the top down on my Jeep. It's a small thing -- a tiny issue, really, but it is hard to beat that feeling.