Thursday, January 13, 2005

Minnesota is the place to be

Way back in 1993 I visited Minnesota for the first time. A cousin in St. Paul was kind enough to put me up for a couple of nights, and gave me a brief tour of Saint Paul. He nicknamed it "The Geek's Tour", because most of our stops were used book stores. Just to mix things up, we also took in the Minnesota Historical Society, right near the state capitol. (Not that that would diminish the geekishness of our itinerary in any way...) Missing an exit on the interstate took us across the Mississippi River into Minneapolis, which was a near-trauma for cousin. People from one twin city never visit the other, I was told. We ended up at the Mall of America in Bloomington. Please understand this: neither cousin nor I are/were mall people. I visit malls only when I am desperate for gifts and don't know where to start. Otherwise, I avoid them like the plague. Cousin had it even worse; he had assured his teenaged kids that he would NEVER set foot in the Mall of America. Much embarrassment ensued upon his return home.

A year later I visited again, but for a longer stay. On the way in, I drove along the Great River Road and checked out the sights along the west bank of the Mississippi. After setting up a base camp (as it were) in cousin's house, I took a nice long day trip across rural southern Minnesota. One thing I learned from that trip is that every little town in the state had a Hardee's and a Dairy Queen. Even if there were no local businesses of any kind in evidence, you could count on fast food for lunch and dessert. A different experience took place over the weekend. Cousin took me to the lake country in northern Minnesota. I just about fell in love with the place. My infatuation had almost everything to do with the layout of the area. I prefer hills and mountains to beaches and flatlands. Cold weather keeps me healthy; warmer weather increases the lethargy. I loved visiting...but I didn't know if I could live there, due to the social and political climate of the state. Just ten years earlier, Minnesota was the only state that voted for Mondale over Reagan. That would make it about the last place I would want to move to.

On the other hand, Minnesota seemed like a place that could use a few more Republicans. But I'm just one man, and I wouldn't have made much difference.

Fast-forward ten years, to 2004. More people are learning how to use the internet for communication and personal expression. The lay observer learned what the Blogosphere was all about. For a couple of years, I freely admit, I had been under the impression that weblogs were all about teenage girls in their bunny slippers at night, sharing secrets with their girlfriends in a bizarre lingo that no one outside of their clique could understand. (I guess it's an AOL thing.) That blinkered view changed after I read the Olive Garden Screed by Minnesota-based author James Lileks. The Bleat has become a daily obsession for me, as it has for thousands if not millions of others. I began scoping out the blogs, and soon discovered what Hugh Hewitt christened the Northern Alliance of Blogs. In addition to the Bleat, my favorite daily reads include Shot In the Dark and Fraters Libertas. All are worth a look if you haven't check them out yet.

Minnesota doesn't need me after all -- with those bloggers helping to shape opinion, the state is in good hands. But in case I ever do have an opportunity to head north, I can expect to be welcomed with open arms. Thank you, Chad the Elder.

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