15th June 12
Many years ago, a friend of mine from back in Kentucky got the idea that he might want to move to Fargo for somewhat obscure reasons I no longer recall. I told him I’d poll some of my Fargo friends on the matter, and send their answers to him. I told them, as a point of reference, that this friend enjoyed books and live jazz.
Here are the answers I received, which are too good not be entered into the public record forever. I anonymized them, and can’t find the original emails, so I don’t remember who said what.
Also worth noting is that these were written in the depths of winter. Please enjoy this advice on your move to Fargo.
“It doesn’t cost a whole lot to live. Also, Fargo was just ranked the fifth most dangerously drunk city in the US by Men’s Health. I don’t know. It’s tough. He might find Fargo to his liking, especially if he seeks solitude. There is Friday night jazz at the Hotel Donaldson downtown. The colleges have jazz students that play as well. The Simon Roe Trio is a group of professors.”
“There’s NO LIVE JAZZ. BUT, there’s a lot of bleak prairie punk and alt-country. And everyone goes to the same shows so he’ll probably meet people easily. How ‘bout cheap beer, does he like that, too? What ‘bout everything low-brow? Does he appreciate an obscene amount of that?”
“If scowling in the dark and reading long novels indoors are your idea of a good time, then Fargo is the place to be. It’s cold (colder than Minneapolis for sure) and dark and there isn’t a whole lot to do. There are some very nice neighborhoods, and at least one of each of every chain restaurant you can imagine. There is also a very beautiful movie theater called the Fargo, and a lot of bars and big suburban-style churches. Because of the three colleges, there are a lot of youthful goings-on; a lot of lectures, probably a lot of music (though Ralph’s, the crown jewel in the Fargo music scene, is gone now). They’ve gotten a few interesting coffee shops since I was there last. They have some nice parks along the Red River. The flatness of the Red River Valley is strangely fascinating. But it is cold.”
6th July 10
I turned up my sketchbook from 2005-06 while rooting around in the basement the other day. There’s some real gems in it, including sketches I’d made at Mystic Lake Casino that were to accompany a Brad Zellar piece that ran in The Rake (I was in fact kicked out by Mystic Lake security — apparently there is an actual “no drawing on the casino floor” policy). There’s also a recipe for Spanish potato tortillas, notes from my very first meeting with Herbach and Sam (sigh!), a drawing of the spontaneous mourning scene outside the Metrodome the day Kirby Puckett died, and, best of all, a list of “finished projects” from the year before on the final pages (several early curatorial efforts at The Soap Factory, learning to play dominoes, and the name of a woman I’d dated, after which I helpfully notated “This project almost finished me”).
Also included is this quite lovely sketch of a pre-W Hotel Foshay Tower, made squatting on Marquette Avenue in the dead of winter. Frustratingly, this is actually the last regular sketchbook I’ve kept since then. Keeping a sketchbook is one of those habits I’ve never been any good at starting, but manage to be fairly faithful about keeping to once I get going. Clearly it’s time to restart one now.
The ‘05-‘06 sketchbook here was 8.5” x 11” hardbound with 60# paper, which I recall made it really cumbersome to carry around, but made for a large, substantial drawing surface. I use a bicycle now much more than I did then, so I don’t know that I’d want to keep a similar model today; any extra weight is a handicap. Do you keep a sketchbook? What kind do you find works best?
1st February 10
This tree at Layman’s Cemetery, right by my bus stop on Cedar, had been spray-painted earlier in the winter with a tell-tale neon orange Dutch Elm Disease ring. Some workers from the Parks and Recreation board were out late last week with a few trucks, preparing to take it down. By Friday, it was gone.
This is maybe the one advantage to having a lo-fi phone camera like the one I have. A clear, hi-res shot of the scene would have simply depicted five guys in Carhartts and a van in the snow. The poor quality of this photo, though, emphasizes all the right qualities: the landscape looks bleaker, the objects in the foreground look like Victorian black paper silhouettes, and the city workers look like a group of pallbearers. I know this sentimentalizes the scene, but that doesn’t strike me as a terrible thing. The tree was almost certainly as old as the cemetery itself.
27th September 09
- A Metro Transit transfer from March (Edwin Mullhouse, Steven Millhauser)
- A hot pink Post It note, folded in half, with directions to an address on Johnson Street in Northeast Minneapolis (The Pets, Bragi Olafsson)
- A pricetag from the Savers thrift store on Lake Street, for a 99-cent “bed and bath accessory.” (Atmospheric Disturbances, Rivka Galchen)
- A business card (doubling as a “key to the city”) from Mike Haeg, Mayor of Mt. Holly, Minnesota, with a handwritten message from Mayor Haeg on the reverse (Nigger: An Autobiography, Dick Gregory)
- The red plastic top for a jar of organic raisins (You Call It Madness: The Sensuous Song of the Crooner, Lenny Kaye)
- A receipt for Micron pens and Bristol pads from Art Materials, Inc. in Uptown Minneapolis, with handwritten instructions to save it for tax purposes (Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression, Morris Dickstein)