I write to you as a transplant to Minnesota. I grew up in the Southwest, but have lived here for 30 years, which means I’m about halfway toward honorary native status. I love it here. I cherish the endless summer nights. I heard my first loon Up North. Became a biking enthusiast, and a year-round runner, too, because there are a gazillion miles of well-tended lake paths and 40 brands of long underwear.
But certain things still set me apart.
The Twin Thing. I live in Minneapolis, but travel to St. Paul a lot, for work and pleasure. This sets me apart from natives. Yes, you are correct. This is the other twin in the Twin Cities. But these two are more like fraternal than identical. Loyalties are divided, and roads are not crossed. I mean this literally. People who have lived in Minneapolis or St. Paul their entire lives have never visited the other city. The marvelous new Light Rail Green Line is changing that, as are intrepid millennials and transplants from bigger cities. That St. Paul is becoming a foodie capital to rival its bigger sibling is kind of cool, too.
Stoic stock. Minnesotans are cautious around strangers, low-key and unassuming. Basically, stuff I’m not. I’m loud. I touch people when I talk to them and I like to stand close. I’m guessing many Minnesotans take a nap, and an Excedrin, after an hour with me. After 30 minutes with me. After …
Cabin culture. Coming from New Mexico, the only people I heard of who lived in cabins ended up on the front page of the Albuquerque Journal bearded and shackled. Going to a Minnesota cabin sounded like taking oneself hostage: crazy traffic jams out of the city on Friday afternoons, another house with sewer problems, two mortgages, sand in your shoes and on your floor, ducks quacking at the crack of dawn. Who needed this torture? Turns out, most Minnesotans need it. Escaping to the cabin, away from the noise and nonsense, is one of the great traditions, and gifts, of living here. I’d be invited more if I weren’t, well, see Stoic Stock above.
L is for lutefisk. Eww. This white gelatinous fish is a mainstay of Nordic countries, made from aged stockfish or dried and salted whitefish and lye. I once eagerly signed up to join friends for a dinner of lutefisk, confusing it with another Northern ‘L’ staple, lefse, which is soft, Norwegian flatbread. Didn’t touch the stuff. Give me white gelatinous gefilte fish any day and yes, I know I’m a hypocrite. For more hilarity on this, see “Lutefisk or Gefilte Fish?” on a site appropriately titled the Survivalist Forum.
Sentence structure. Call me high maintenance, but I like my sentences complete. It took me a while to realize that “Are you coming with?” was all that a Minnesotan was going to string together. Minnesota-speak also includes “hot dish” (No! It’s casserole) and “Duck, duck, gray duck” (No! It’s goose). Despite these egregious missteps, they have among the highest high school graduation rates in the country. You betcha.