The clear blue air.

I’ve been feeling a little bit psycho lately.  Because here in Minneapolis it’s been below zero even before windchill for the last couple of days.  And I love it.  Maybe it’s the sun glowing off the styrofoam crunchy perfection snow (this is the only time I will positively refer to styrofoam, mind you).  Maybe it’s the dichotomy of cozy warm indoors with tea and Netflix and blankets and housemates with the frozen tundra urban outdoors, cars sliding left and right on the ice that even the harshest salt currently can’t melt.  However, I am certain that winter biking is a key aspect of my possibly psychotic love for this weather.

Image
One of my winter steeds, Pink Lemonade the Pugsley. Riding her is like an elephant on a trampoline in the snow.

I was honored to be the first winter cyclist highlighted by my friend Brian on his new BIKEFUN Tumblr page, and in a way it feels appropriate, because going into my fourth winter of riding, I’ve finally left behind the nerves and anxiety at the prospect of ice and loose new snow and complex layering of clothing.  I can just ride, the clear blue air freezing my nose hairs, pitying the angsty drivers while giggling to myself as I glide around another corner.

Happy one-week-until-the-election.

Yes, it’s Halloween.  But I’m increasingly unable to avoid my attention being drawn to the impending election, in spite of it being my favorite holiday today and my birthday in less than two weeks.  So here’s what’s on my mind:

If you’re a Minnesotan, vote no.

Then vote no again.

For g-d’s sake, don’t vote for Mittens.

And do your homework, there are lots of other more local elections that matter.  If you’re Minnesotan, check out our local paper’s resource for all the elections in your area.

Places I Love: Parkway Pizza

At long last I write an ode to Parkway Pizza, the fabulous pizza joint mere feet from my doorstep.  Host to my wedding ‘rehearsal dinner’, Parkway just might be everything I could want in a pizza place.

The foundation of my adoration is of course in the pizza ingredients themselves.  Parkway has pledged to use as many local ingredients as possible, and has a sign indicating that Wisconsin is the origin of their cheese.  Gluten-free crust is available for the celiacs and gluten-intolerant among us, and they do a fabulous olive oil garlic bread for my dairy-free friend Lee.  They also just added mock duck as a new pizza topping, which substitutes fabulously for any meat on any pizza, equally and sometimes surpassing (in the case of the chicken alfredo pizza) the previous carnivore-induced deliciousness.

Beer is another obvious highlight- all beers that Parkway carries are local, and they recently began serving a handful of locals on tap in addition to bottles.  I’m more than ready for a fall/winter seasonal to return to the tap list, but in the meantime the IPA will more than suffice.

Free pool and foosball tables, rotating local art, friendly staff, and frequent donations to local schools round out the list of what makes Parkway so fantastic.  Almost.  The icing on the cake is their all the time special deal: $20 for a jumbo one topping pizza and a pitcher of Grain Belt.  Including tax.  Where else can you get something so tasty so cheaply?  Ben and I used to take advantage of this special nearly every time we visited Parkway, but the new Sunday evenings bicyclists and friends gatherings have switched things up a bit, for the better I think.  Regular friend and food events make my heart happy.

Next time you’re in the Longfellow/Hiawatha neighborhood, visiting Minnehaha Falls or the like, be sure to partake of the delights of Parkway Pizza.

The Creation of Home

This weekend marks the first visit back to Illinois since the winter holiday season.  Though still in the northern Midwest for certain, the culture of suburban Illinois is quite different than the urban landscape of my present homeland in Minneapolis.

The Land of Lincoln, place of my birth, childhood, and adolescence before leaving for college in Minnesota, was for a long time the only home I knew.  However, upon choosing to make a life in Minnesota after finishing four years of college and a year of Lutheran Volunteer Corps, I found that my adopted state and city quickly became more home in a holistic, feeling-of-belonging sense than Illinois ever was.

Minneapolis has art, theater, a surprisingly vibrant music scene, green space and biking adventures galore, and, most importantly community.  Maybe it’s that I happened upon both the biking and progressive scenes at just the right moment, but people share, create, and communicate in Minneapolis in a way that feeds my soul.  In short, I have become a Minnesotan, or at least a Twin Cities-ian.

I far too often badmouth my place of birth though, especially now that I’ve found a place and people that I feel so at home with.  Though suburban Chicagoland is just that- the suburbs, often sprawling, difficult to impossible to traverse via non-motorized transportation, nearly devoid of independent and local businesses- it made me, somewhat in spite of itself.  Now that I have extricated myself from the day-to-day elements of living in the ‘burbs, pleasant memories of unexpectedly formative experiences begin to float through my psyche.  I remember early morning bike rides around the neighborhood that I committed to for a summer.  Explorations of the ‘woods’ in several nearby parks.  Scavenging at garage sales.  The summer reading program at the library, where I almost always worked my way through all of the sheets and prizes the program had to offer.

Though I entirely intend to never again live in a suburb (I’m a city lady for the present, with rural living as a possible though distant future possibility), who I am and what I love is inextricably tied to my upbringing in the suburbs.  Having a safe space to cultivate that self and those joys gave me a nearly limitless future, innumerable possibilities that at the time I could not see (covered of course in the haze of disdain for the place of my upbringing).  Choosing college, a semester in India, a number of fantastic summer experiences, and a volunteer year followed by work in the non-profit world, certainly would not have been nearly as easy or obvious without my safe adolescent cocoon.

The Chicago suburb of my upbringing provided both a safe place to become as well as something to push against, an unyielding adversary and impetus for beginning to imagine what life and place I might want for my future.  It was home, and though the physical landscape has gone through many (in my opinion, distasteful) iterations, it provided a secure foundation for finding and creating a home to fully embrace and advocate for in Minneapolis.

A place of every emotion: my home for nearly twelve years.

Week of Joy, Day 1: Bicycling

The choice for what to write about on Day 1 of my Week of Joy was kind of a no-brainer.  What do I do every day that gets me where I need to go, provides exercise, saves money, and has connected me with a marvelous community in Minneapolis?

BICYCLING.

It would take far more than two hands to count the ways that bicycling gives me joy, but let’s begin with the sheer freedom of it.  Bicycling gets me where I want to go, when I want to go there, with minimal mechanical issues (it doesn’t hurt that I’m married to a bike-fixing-man-extraordinaire) and almost zero cost.  Bicycling allows me to see the world, both micro and macro.  Do drivers notice blue herons, quirky house details, changes in wind speed and terrain and light quality?  Maybe a bit.  The pace of bicycling, however, brings the particulars of the world into vivid clarity while also allowing travel far and wide, to new niches in the city one has inhabited for years or to distant towns and states and even countries.  Bicycling gives me joy because it opens up the world.

________________________________________________

I chose bicycling as my first joy largely because I had an amazing experience this past weekend at the Open Streets Cyclovia with the power of the bicycle in community building.  This event was several years in coming; bringing a Cyclovia to Minneapolis was a goal of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition for years.


Rather than experience the first Open Streets solely as a participant, I opted to volunteer.  This meant collecting surveys and raffle tickets from participants along the corridor, a task that’s ordinarily less than enjoyable because people 1.) don’t want to give out their information (though this particular survey was anonymous) or 2.) don’t want their experience to be interrupted at all.  At Open Streets, however, everyone was having such a lovely time that most were more than happy to share their happiness with friends, strangers, and survey collecting volunteers alike.  In fact, I don’t think one person refused to do the survey.  And the overwhelming response on the survey questions?

MORE.

More time.   More musicians.  More food.  More streets.  And above all, more often.  People loved taking back their street in their community, whether they were bicycling, skateboarding, walking with a stroller, or roller skating on the bumpy road.

Though the event certainly required the energy and commitment of several organizations and countless volunteers, it’s amazing that such a simple thing as recreating the commons on 22 blocks of a single street could bring hundreds if not thousands of individuals together in celebration.

_________________________________________________

After the joyful, community building experience of Open Streets, where can I bicycle from here to increase and spread joy?
Keep volunteering.  There are many organizations and many many bicycling related events coming up (it is summer in MN after all).
Continue planning weekend mini trip to various locations just outside the metro area.  These micro vacations with Benjamin provide new landscapes, adventures, and stories galore.
Encourage friends and family to bike (without getting too preachy).  The best way is to keep doing it myself of course, and talking about the joy it brings me, but I can definitely invite friends on bike rides more often.
Read more about bicycling, both present culture and past history.  I just happened to have checked out Wheels of Change from the library mere hours ago.
Contribute more to the larger cycling community.  Write for the Grease Rag blog, perhaps?  Plan the ice cream alleycat that Ben and I have been talking about?  Actually be a part of MplsBikeLove?  The opportunities are endless.

More than anything else, keep bicycling every day, practicing presence while I do so.

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”
-Arthur Conan Doyle

A glimmer of political hope.

I’ve been posting frequently on Facebook on the MN Marriage Amendment that will be up on the ballot in 2012, because it’s an essential issue both for the sake of equality and for the distraction it is creating from really huge budget issues in MN.  I am ASTOUNDED by how divisive this issue continues to be, and voting no next year is only a fragment of a much larger political and social challenge.

From the Facebook event ‘I will vote no on the marriage amendment!’:
“The house [and now the Senate] just passed SF1308 which will put the question on the ballot asking all Minnesotans whether marriage should be defined as ONLY between one man and one woman, thus furthering the already discriminatory act of MN law. Vote NO!!!”

You can learn more about the advocacy and action already taking place around this issue you can visit Minnesotans United for All Families – I’m hoping to volunteer with them at some point in the next year.

All in all this issue is monumentally distressing and depressing to many, and to me as a recently married person that is reaping the benefits of an exclusive and patriarchal system.  Love is love is love.

However, while paging through the latest issue of Lavender at a coffeeshop yesterday, I came across this:

I ❤ the Minneapolis City Council DFL members.

It’s much nicer in color (unfortunately my scanner only does B&W), as the Councilmembers are all wearing different colored blazers, arranged in rainbow order.  But you get the sentiment.  Now I’m hoping for this ad to show up in more mainstream venues.  Star Tribune, maybe?