My sentence of the week: “Writer as wright, creatively righting.”
To those who are writers, or who want to be writers, or who are passionate readers and interested in the process of writing, I pose a question.
In face of the terrifying mass of books published each year, added to those written in the past, to say nothing of those completed only to moulder unaccepted in the file of a frustrated writer’s office, why?
As implied by the title chosen for this posting, and by my absurdly unquotable quote, in this moment, at 2:30 p.m. on a Monday, sitting in the New Brighton Public Library, sharing the room with two elderly gentlemen reading newspapers, I posit that the purpose of spending one’s precious time as a writer lies in the creative construction of a reality which serves in some way to right the world as it exists in the exact moment of creation.
Writing is a deeply contextual process undertaken by a human mind, living in a specific place and time, with a unique history and present moment circumstance. Whether a writer is creating fiction or non-fiction, it inevitably springs forth filtered through that individual’s reality.
Why should you write? Because no one else is you and if the desire won’t leave you alone, you have a story to tell. So get with it!
On November 6th I had a milestone birthday. On the 7th I resigned my position as a hospice spiritual care coordinator. A few days later, a friend asked me I how felt. My response, “Exultant.” Singingly, dancingly, giddily, ridiculously happy. Not that I had disliked my work with hospice patients and families. I loved hearing their stories and helping them toward acceptance of the inevitable, helping them make peace with the situation, and at times, with each other. However, the hospice work, demanding on several levels, kept me from doing that for which I longed with my mind, heart, and soul.
Closing a door opens new opportunities. What I am feeling two weeks later is a deep sense of shalom. Inner and outer peace. Four hours a day, six days a week, I have been typing words into my laptop. Words forming sentences, forming paragraphs, forming pages, forming chapters, forming (God willing) completed, published books that will bring light, humor, hope, and entertainment to readers.
The book I am working on at present is the first in a series of three. Number two is also partially written, Number three is sketched out. Another book, begun long ago, is also still alive in my mind and in a file. And I can envision writing a non-fiction work based on my Central Avenue NE blogs, maybe focused on the fascinating Thorp Building. This should keep my busy for a few decades.
This past Friday I had the privilege of hearing Chris Koza perform with his band at the Landmark Center. In my opinion, Chris is a musical genius and deserves huge concert audiences and record sales. But no matter how talented the individual, be she musician, visual artist, actor, or writer, the road is challenging. Only the very few are “successful” as the world measures success. The recipe for succeeding as an artist may require luck, connections, or the ability to appeal to common tastes. Throughout history there have been millions of unremembered, uncelebrated creative artists, starting with the pre-historic cave painters. At least their works endure. Were there also musicians, dancers, dramatic performers in ages long past?
Even though the work remains unrecognized and unappreciated, or vanishes with time, perhaps the spirit of all artistry endures. Is that what gives us the courage to do our work? Is this the source of what we experience as inspiration, that sense the the work produced comes from somewhere beyond ourselves?
Friends, fearlessly pursue what you love. Make the necessary sacrifices. Take the leap. And let me know how it goes for you.
How can one respond to the pervasive atmosphere of violence, dishonesty, fear, and anger afoot today? Option one: respond in like fashion. Spew invective, engage in name-calling, hunker down, buy weapons, and let survival mode dictate your actions. Option two: respond in a diametrically opposite manner. Project kindness, open your arms, turn swords into plough shares, and see the other as kindred. Visit the Fair State Brewing Cooperative taproom, study their business model, and have a beer.
Fair State is a cooperative. You have to admire the strategy of getting people to invest their money in a venture like brewing and purveying beer. The real benefits are slight enough to make one believe that it is the concept into which members are buying, not the actual financial or material return. They are investing in community. Membership is $200 and this is forever, or for the FSBC lifespan which, judging by the brisk business at each of my several visits, will be lengthy. One does get a discount on merchandise (hats, tee shirts, hoodies), a portion of future profits, invitations to special events, and an occasional discount on beer. Members can serve on the board of directors, and have input on beer varieties.
Perhaps I will replicate this strategy in order to fund my writing life. You can buy a membership into what . . . me? No, that sounds weird. Perhaps an investment in future published books. For that, you get a preview chapter, a free autographed copy after publication, and an invite to a members-only book release event with FSBC beer. Woot-woot! I think we have a plan.
In addition to an investment strategy, Fair State has an inviting atmosphere. A brew pub where people bring their kids and their dogs presents an communal ambiance. Their website notes that dogs must be accompanied by their humans. Don’t you love the image of dogs coming in on their own? Some customers sip alone at the bar, others are coupled at the small tables along the wall, while others sit in groups at the longer tables up front. You can buy a pretzel from Aki’s which is their next door neighbor to the north. Or you can bring in food from one of the great area restaurants, or have it delivered. What a deal! Fair State also sells beer at local liquor stores, and has off sale of large bottles, cans, and growlers on site.
They have a weekly trivia night on Wednesdays, and release a new beer each Thursday. If you are a card-carrying member of a local food co-op, your first pint is free on Mondays.
My personal preference is for beers of non-hoppy, but unique and tasty varieties, From my son, who is an expert in many areas, including beer, I learned several years ago about IBUs. A high IBU (International Bitterness Unit) equals hoppy and bitter, which generally makes me unhoppy. ABV stands for percentage of Alcohol By Volume.
At today’s visit I sample two tap brews. First was Bowsaw, described as a “Kvass-style ale brewed using pretzels and bread from our neighbors at Aki’s Breadhaus, as well as Pilsner and Beechwood-smoked barley malts. In essence a farmhouse table beer, Bowsaw is dry, spritzy, a touch acidic, and has hints of smoke and minerality.” ABV: 3.5 IBU: 5.* Relatively speaking, Bowsaw is low in alcohol and low in bitterness. The idea of using leftover bread products is appealing. I enjoy the brew, while being slightly put off by a smokier flavor than I anticipated from the description.
Next I sample Extreme Leisure, described as a “Fruited Berliner Weiss for those days when you can’t be bothered with anything at all whatsoever, and all you want is a super fruity cocktail, we present Extreme Leisure. guava passionfruit sour wheat beer, made with 2lbs./gallon fruit puree.” ABV: 4, IBU: 10.*’ And this about sums it up. If you like fruity, sour, low bitterness beer, as I do, this is a great choice, even though the description makes it sound like a brew for the idle and slow-witted.
Being at Fair State gives me a feeling similar to the Minnesota State Fair. A sense of kinship, community, and hope for humanity.
In the spirit of consistent kindness, I wish you farewell until next week.
* For comparison purposes, amongst the current Fair State beer lineup, the highest ABV is 8, and the highest IBU is 70.
The highlight of the Khao Hom Thai experience revolved around my inability to keep track of my cell phone. After being seated in a booth in the back by the gracious host/server, I scoped out the place. The space was formerly occupied by my go-to Thai place, Karta Thai, which moved about 14 blocks north on Central, meaning you will get to virtually visit in about 1 year, she says hyperbolically. While the menu looks similar, the seating has been altered with the replacement of the south wall booths by tables–increased seating capacity, decreased coziness.
By my calculation there are a total of 3 Thai restaurants on Central. So I devise a plan–order Pad Thai, ubiquitous to Thai cuisine, at each place, thereby enabling a fair comparison.
Khao Hom Thai offers lunch specials, which include a salad. The salad arrives almost immediately. Despite containing iceberg, my pet-peeve green, it is fresh, nicely presented, and tastily dressed. I give it a qualified seal of approval. The Pad Thai with tofu is delivered after a suitable interval, also attractive, sizzling hot, and delish. However, having forgotten that Pad Thai is noodle-rich and veggie-poor, I realize that the all-Pad Thai plan will need to be reconsidered.
A table of 5 youngish men and 1 woman of a similar age, are seated next to my booth. Yay! I get to listen to their conversations. They are co-workers, wearing unreadable badges on lanyards. They discuss whether or not they are millennials. One of them checks Google, learning that the millennial window runs from the early 1980s to the 2000s. One of the guys terms them, “he stupidest generation”. Another guy calls millennials a “movement”. The response, “I want to disassociate myself from that movement.” Self-loathing millennials! They discuss Shark Tank, and chocolate chip cookies. These are intelligent people with a good rapport.
Back to the cell phone. The bill is modest, $12.00 including a 25% tip, and I leave with a take out carton containing another meal. (Note: Henceforth I will carry a container with me for leftovers. They are rarely recyclable or compostable.) Post-lunch I stop at the Eastside Co-op. In the co-op parking lot, I decide to check my cell. NO PHONE! Mentally retracing my steps, I realize that I left it lying on the booth seat. Fortunately, at least in this circumstance, I also have a work cell and use it to call the abandoned phone. A guy hesitantly answers and I learn that, indeed, it was left in the booth.
Upon return to the restaurant, I am greeted by the host, who raises his arms, exclaiming, “There she is!” He directs me to the man who found the phone, a member of the group of 6 upon whom I eavesdropped. They were all pleased have been part of a good deed.
Until next week from El Taco Riendo, do something dumb to make someone else feel helpful. It’ll make you happy, too!
My visit to Bonicelli Kitchen causes me to reflect on the past, present, and future of Central Avenue NE. I have had the pleasure of meeting folks who grew up in this area of Minneapolis from the 1920s through the 1950s. All expressed surprise at its transformation from a neighborhood of predominantly Eastern European immigrants to an area populated by diverse peoples, many coming from East Africa, Latin American, and the Middle East. This demographic transition is reflected in the thrilling variety of the street’s cuisine. Now is the time to visit and enjoy, as I detect that another round of change which is already in process, not to imply that this is bad. Buddhist teaching would confirm that change is the basic nature of reality.
But first, the food.
Those who are following this blog may grow weary of veggie burger pics, but here’s a dandy. Housed in a pretzel bun is a burger made with lots of healthy stuff that manages to taste really good. Served on the side are Asiago roasted potatoes, house-made pickles, and spicy mayo. Yup. I am happy. And my sense of well-being is enhanced by the excellent decision to order a Fair State Vienna Lager. Drinking at lunch is something I never do, but never say never. (Apologies for the cliche.) Perusing the menu I spy another 5 or 6 items that I would be happy to try in a future visit. On the right is a picture of the interior decor.
Back to the reflection on a neighborhood in the process of being reincarnated. The presence of an up-scale, chef-owned restaurant planted less than a year ago on the same block as Central Deli and Coffee (see my posting of a couple of weeks ago) is an example of the change coming to Central Avenue. As NE Minneapolis becomes a center for artists drawn here by studio and gallery space available at reasonable prices, people with money to spend will follow. The more affluent folks may see this as an area worth exploring, maybe even a place to call home. Real estate prices and rents rise, people of modest means move or are unable to buy, existing businesses may close or move. It is an evolutionary and inevitable process.
But for now, I joyfully eat and write.
My novel Borderland also continues to not only grow but to evolve. Those who write know what I mean. Characters take on a life of their own, and begin to have a hand in the plot. This past week I have been shaping and reshaping a scene in which Claire, the main character, is unwillingly drawn into a regular relationship with her neighbor Violet. In the process, Violet has to me revealed unforeseen complexities in her personality. Meanwhile, Claire is troubled by mysterious nighttime sounds on the other side of her bedroom wall.
Maya Cuisine is colorful, with the exterior and interior painted in shades of lime, papaya, and red pepper. As you can see by the photo, the restaurant is located right next door to a psychic reader. The psychic was out on Wednesday. My own powers of insight suggested that even if she (I’m assuming gender) had been in, I’m better off saving my money and letting the future unfold as it will.
Time for lunch.
Inside Maya the seating options are varied, including a long window table with stools looking out to the street, a row of booths opposite the cooking/ordering area, a back area with table service, and farther back, a bar. At the take out counter are menus with photos and descriptions of the offerings—tacos, tamales, burritos, salads, quesadillas, platillos (plates), and tortas. Each is available with a choice of meats, or (yay!) vegetarian. To this Minnesota native, the food seems authentically Mexican, beef stomach and beef tongue being offered in addition to standard meats. Beverages options include Mexican beers and sodas. So there you have it.
I choose the veggie quesadilla with guacamole and a side of pinto beans. It arrives in a few minutes. A garnish bar offers salsas and other toppings. The quesadilla and beans are filling. My only gripes are that the free water from a glass jar with spigot tastes weirdly musty, and my booth table rocks back and forth on an uneven bottom.
The place is busy for lunch, with a clientele skewing young, seasoned with a savory selection of older folks. The front section, being near the ordering and cooking areas, is fairly noisy, but the table and bar section are a lot quieter if your dining plan focuses on serene conversation.
The highlight of my Mayan adventure is a conversation with two young women in the rear bar area. Observing me snooping around and taking photos, they ask in a friendly way what I am doing. I share my strategy of visiting all the non-chain Central Avenue restaurants in NE Minneapolis and blogging about the experiences. They love the idea and proceed to recommend other restaurants. Their favorites? Ginger Hop and an Ecuadoran place, but they couldn’t recall that name. I’m thinking maybe Chimbaroza? We’ll get that far up Central by about mid-summer if all goes according to plan, which of course it most likely will not. And that’s OK.
A work colleague asked me recently if I was dining alone on these outings. Having given thought to inviting friends to share the experience, I told her that I had decided to go it alone because, at least for me, solo dining encourages observation and interaction.
The rewrite of Borderland continues apace. Claire has met and been interrogated by Violet Swenson, her cranky and outspoken across-the-hall neighbor. Violet will later come to have a profound influence on Claire.
Next week I plan to lunch at Bonicelli Kitchen, a relative newcomer to Central Avenue. The website description is as follows: “A spacious patio offering Italian dishes with global flair alongside a thoughtful beer and wine list.” One fervently hopes that they also have indoor seating!