Severed roots: Visiting a past I never had

I made my first visit to the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota this summer.

It was about time, since I’m an enrolled member there.

Why I’d never been there before is a long story. I’ll write more about it in a future post, but let’s just say that the way that American Indian culture fizzled and pretty much died in my family through my grandparents’ and my mother’s generations is not unique. The more I’m around other people of Native American heritage, the more I realize that everybody’s doing a certain amount of learning — some were exposed to more of the culture as a child and some are more like me. American society did it’s best to squash out native people and their culture — both literally and figuratively — and it’s actually pretty amazing how much has survived.

I’ve been wanting to go up to White Earth for a long time. About four years ago, I started thinking about making a documentary film about “my reservation”. But I didn’t want to just go there and start shooting video before I had an idea of what I was trying to do, so I kept putting it off.

This summer, MinnPost, the online news site where I do freelance video and writing, provided me a great opportunity (nudge, perhaps?) to finally go. I’m part of a project called Rural Minnesota: A Generation at the Crossroads. MinnPost received a grant from the Bremer Foundation to profile young people in small towns and rural areas of Minnesota. We’ve been doing groups of reports around themes, and the summer cluster of reports was about Native American youth.

I spent two days at the White Earth Pow Wow in June and ended up with four videos, featuring nine young people. They ran last week in MinnPost along with another piece I did about a Dakota man in southern Minnesota. Here’s a link to all of those videos.

(all photos by Steve Date)

I’ve been to few pow wows over the years, but always only for an hour or two. Hanging out for a couple of days, walking around, talking to people, feeling the drum beat and the rhythm of the days gave me a whole new appreciation for it. I started to feel a little more like I was in the middle of it, a little less like an outsider looking in.

I find it difficult to shoot both video and still photos at the same event. When you’re doing one, you feel like you should be doing the other. Since this was mainly a video assignment, I didn’t take as many stills as I would have liked. But I’ve put some in a Flickr set. You can view those photos here.



A reservation is a complex place. There are many story lines and some of them are not easy to understand or to tell. It took me 58 years to get there, but now I want to do a film about this place more than ever.

Stay tuned.

Pizza Night at A to Z Farm: Wisconsin’s worst-kept secret

Hungry for pizza? How does this sound — hop in the car, drive 80 miles, wait in line for 20 minutes to order your $24 – $27 pizza, wait two and a half more hours outdoors for your number to be called. Then sit on the ground (a few feet from some cows and goats) and eat it.

Not interested? Too bad for you, because you’re missing a great dining experience.

A to Z Produce and Bakery is a 4-mile drive up out of the valley from Stockholm, Wisconsin, near Lake Pepin. (see previous post)

Emily and Kyle have been regular visitors to the “pizza farm” and have been trying to get us down there for a year. We finally made it last night.

When the weather is nice, you have to park pretty far away. (all photos by Steve Date)

A to Z offers pizza night only once a week — Tuesday evenings from March to November. Their deal is that they sell pizzas — fantastic pizzas made with things that are grown within a few hundred yards of where you’re standing — but nothing else. If you want a beverage, a napkin, fork, a snack while you wait, or anything else, you have to bring it to the farm with you — and you have to take all the wrappers and containers with you when you leave (including the pizza box you just bought). There are no trash cans. Oh, and you’ll also need to bring a blanket or a chair to sit on.

Check the chalkboard menu when you arrive to see what kinds of pizza are offered this week, place your order, and then wander around the farm or sit back and relax for a while.

This shaded area gets the most crowded.


Picturesque out-buildings remind you this is a working farm the rest of the week.

This is not a place to go if you’re in a hurry. If you can’t wait a couple of hours to eat, then bring some snacks. Your kids will love it here. They get to run around and explore the farm while you sip your favorite beverage and catch up with friends and family.




As a city boy, I don’t get to spend much time on farms, and it was nice to soak in the sights, sounds, and yes, even the smells. To sit for a few hours on a blanket with people you like in such a beautiful place is a wonderful way to spend a summer evening.


As for the pizza? I can’t imagine how it could be any better. Fresh vegetables that taste like you just picked them yourself and crust that is the most tender I’ve ever tasted make the wait and the price worth every minute and every penny.

Thanks, Emily and Kyle, for being persistent in your invitations.

I can’t wait to go again.

Who needs Sturgis?

On our way to eat lunch at The Anchor Fish & Chips in Northeast Minneapolis today (it’s great, by the way), we stumbled on a neighborhood motorcycle show called the Bearded Lady Motorcycle Freak Show on 13th Ave. NE just east of University Ave. This neighborhood has kind of become Hipsterville over the past few years and I like going up there to view cool people as they go about their lives in their natural habitat.

After our tasty and satisfying fish & chips, we wandered over to the motorcyle festival. There were a lot of interesting bikes, of course. But as they say in unsuccessful job interviews, I’m more of a “people person”.

The Grain Belt was flowing, the tattoos were glistening in the sun and I snapped a few photos. They pretty much speak for themselves, so I’ll shut up now. Next year, I’ll spend more than 30 minutes there.

(All photos by me – Steve Date)



















The spectrum of hipnicity


I want this shirt


OK, I had to put in one motorcyle picture

And finally — It ain’t over ’til the bearded lady scratches.

A lazy, hazy, back of my neck getting dirty and gritty kind of week

I got a note the other day from my friend Casey in San Diego and he mentioned something that I always point out to people who don’t live in Minnesota — that we have a more extreme range of temperatures here than just about any populated area in the world. Everyone knows about our winters (-20 is not uncommon and -30 is possible), but some don’t realize how hot it can get here in the summer.

We’re in the fourth day of a week-long hot spell up here. Temps are in the high 90s during the day and don’t drop out of the 80s at night.

I was on my run around Lake Harriet on Sunday, sweating out several gallons of disgustingness, and I kept thinking about two songs from when I was a kid. “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer” by Nat King Cole came out when I was 8 years old in 1961. It’s a corny, old-fashioned kind of song that became etched in my brain and I couldn’t forget it if I wanted to. It’s an example of the early rock and roll era, when “How Much is that Doggy in the Window” became “You Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog” almost overnight and both genres coexisted for a time on the Billboard charts and “rock” radio stations. That was also pre-Motown, so the only kind of song that a black singer could get on the pop charts while Elvis and others (Pat Boone ?!?!?) were making piles of cash from recording covers of black blues and soul songs.

A couple of years later, the Beatles came along and . . . do I really have to describe what happened? The mid ’60s were, among other things, the birth pangs of the Woodstock generation. The other song that was in my head on my run was “Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful, with John Sebastian. That song from 1966 has also left a permanent mark in my brain tissue. When I got home, I looked at a video of Summer in the City on YouTube and was instantly brought back to a time when I thought those guys were cool and that song seemed really edgy – even a little “dirty and gritty”. I was 13.

It was the year of The Monkees, The Association, Simon and Garfunkel, two generations of Sinatras — and the Billboard #1 song of the year was “The Ballad of the Green Berets” by Sgt. Barry Sadler.

But the times they were a-changin’ and John Sebastian was trying to place himself somewhere in the middle between The Beach Boys and what would become “hard rock” in just a few short years. But Sebastian never made it out of that transitional zone, although he did make an attempt by perfoming at Woodstock while on an acid trip.

Long story sh . . . . no, sorry, it’s just a long story. After my run, I went back over to “my” lake – Lake Harriet – and gave myself a one-hour assignment to shoot photos of people enjoying the lazy, hazy, heat.

There are a lot of great songs about summer that would be much better to get stuck in your head than the two I had — “Summertime Blues”, “Hot Fun in the Summertime”, “Heat Wave” (not about summer at all, of course) immediately come to mind — “Summer Wind” by Sinatra and “Summertime” by Ella Fitzgerald, Janis Joplin (and a million other singers) are great songs. I’d even welcome an occasional “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry. I’m going to try to conjure up one of those on my next run.

But for now, I’m stuck with this one. I hate to admit it, but I still kind of like it — and I really don’t want to lose the memories it brings.

So play the video of John Sebastian, smirking, laughing at himself lip-synching with his long, perfectly-combed hair and mutton-chop sideburns. Look at the photos of the lake, and then go outside and have some “sodas and pretzels and beer” like a “cool cat, lookin’ for a kitty”.

“You’ll wish that summer could always be here” — especially if you live in Minnesota.












A nice afternoon on the Wisconsin side of Lake Pepin

We took a little drive yesterday down the Wisconsin side of Lake Pepin, which begins just over the bridge from Red Wing, Minnesota, about an hour southeast of the Twin Cities. Inspired by Emily and Kyle’s stories of trips to the “Pizza Farm” and a nice article in the Minneapolis StarTribune by Rick Nelson, we felt it was time to take a few hours to stop and visit a few places we had previously only sped past on trips to somewhere else.

Lake Pepin is either a long lake or a wide part of the Mississippi River, depending on how you look at it. But at about 2-3 miles across and 20 miles long, it has the look and feel of a big lake surrounded by wooded hills and rocky bluffs.

The railroad hugs the shoreline on the east side of Lake Pepin (photo by Steve Date)

Large sailboats and speedboats mix with barge traffic.

View from the marina in Pepin, Wisconsin. People on the bench watching sailboats and barges go past. (photo by Steve Date)

The towns of Maiden Rock, Stockholm and Pepin are all cute little villages full of tourists in the summer.

Stockholm is a tiny town with lots of charm (photo by Steve Date)


Stockholm (pop. 97 according to the sign) has some fine, old buildings (photo by Steve Date)

Pepin’s claim to fame is as the the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It has a couple of hot dining spots, some gift shops, art galleries, specialty stores, and a fairly large marina.

The Pickle Factory bar and restaurant on the waterfront in Pepin is popular with motorcylers of all ages (photo by Steve Date)

We ate at the Harbor View Cafe, a wonderful, cozy place. It’s a well-known restaurant around these parts and is always packed on summer evenings.

The Harbor View Cafe in Pepin (darker blue building in center) is a great place to eat (photo by Steve Date)


Since we were there for an early lunch, we were able to get a seat right away. Our waitress told us that not only does the menu change daily, but “with each shift”. In fact, there are no printed food menus, only the handwritten chalkboard on the wall. Don’t expect the usual burgers and sandwiches. This is the full meal deal — soup, salad, meat and potatoes and lots of fish dishes. The prices are a little above average, but it’s worth it. The food is great.

After lunch, we drove up out of the river valley at Stockholm to the Maiden Rock Winery and Cidery which we had known about from an interesting article a couple of months ago in Heavy Table

Maiden Rock Winery and Cidery near Stockholm, WI (photo by Steve Date)

It’s a fun place to sample wine, cider and walk around among the apple trees on the orchard’s hilltop location.

Stroll through the orchards (photo by Steve Date)


Medaille d'Or apples. Not sure how they taste, but apparently they make good cider. (photo by Steve Date)

We had to do one more thing before heading home. Eat pie. The only question was where to do it.

We narrowed the choices down to two: The Homemade Cafe in Pepin (great photo in StarTribune) and the Stockholm Pie Company in Stockholm have both gotten rave reviews. We settled on Stockholm, mainly because that’s where we were when we decided to eat pie. We tried the chocolate pie and the triple berry. They were both wonderful.

The woman who sat at the table we had just vacated looks like she doesn't want to be photographed eating pie. (photo by Steve Date)

It was a very nice afternoon in some beautiful places. But the best part is that we left some stones unturned — the Pizza Farm (more about that in a future post), Amish furniture, and of course stopping in next time to see Julie and Alice at the Homemade Cafe to see how their pies measure up.

We’ll be back soon.

Off my butt, on my bike, and out in the country

One of my long-time goals has been to get around the state of Minnesota more and see smaller towns and rural areas. I haven’t done very well with that that until recently.

Two things have helped to get me in my car and on my bike to travel around more.
1. My daughter Emily moved to Rochester a year ago after being away for quite a few years.
2. MinnPost included me in a grant from the Bremer Foundation to do reporting about young people in rural Minnesota.

Last week I was able to use both of those justifications to go to the southern part of the state. Mrs. D and I met Emily at her house and then we drove about 30 miles farther to Fountain, which is one of the trailheads for the Root River bike trail.

The trail begins in open fields

The trail starts on the edge of town and goes through some rolling farmland before descending into the Root River Valley.

Even though the sun was shining, the trail was very wet after a hard rain during the night. We immediately had brown water spots all over our backs.

Mrs. D and Emily

The scenery is beautiful — green and lush. Because it was a weekday, there wasn’t a lot of other bike traffic.


After winding 11 miles through the forested valley, we emerged in Lanesboro, a small town that looks like a small town should.

Everybody seems to love Lanesboro and it appears from time to time on “best towns” lists. Recently it was featured on Yahoo Travel’s “Prettiest Towns”.

Lanesboro


The trail was closed for bridge repair a couple of miles later, so we turned around a little earlier than planned and headed back.

After stopping to do a little window-shopping on the way back through Lanesboro, we had still managed a nice 26 miles by the time we returned to Fountain.

The total length of the trail is 42 miles from Fountain to Houston. Go here for more info and a great map. Plus there’s an 18-mile spur trail called the Harmony-Preston trail that heads southward from about half-way between Fountain and Lanesboro. I think next time I’ll start in Lanesboro and do a 62-mile round-trip to Houston and back.

It’s a great ride, no matter what part of the trail you’re on.

After we returned to Rochester and had lunch, I took off for Owatonna to shoot some video for MinnPost. It was a great day and I might never have done it without my two new reasons for getting off my butt and on the road.

Strange encounter on the golf course

Yesterday I played golf with daughter Emily. All was going well (except for the golf) until we were walking to the tee of the final hole and my cell phone rang. It was a mysterious male voice asking where we were.

Against my better judgement, I told the voice our location — on the 9th tee waiting for group of elderly women playing just ahead of us. The voice said, “OK — I have a visual on you just behind the Cotton Tops”. Moments later, two well dressed, but shadowy figures were walking toward us.

As they got closer, they paused for a moment and appeared to be holding hands.

I had a queasy feeling about what was going down. Who were these guys — FBI agents? An Evangelical conversion squad? The IRS? Door-to-door shoulder bag salesmen?

They gave me the creeps and I wanted to run, but Emily was my daughter after all, and I felt I needed to protect her.

So I backed up slowly instead of breaking into a full gallop.

Then they got close enough for me to see their faces.

They identified themselves as resident psychiatrists from the nearby clinic, apparently part of some sort of outreach program designed to identify potential “clients”.

Emily was greatly relieved and played the final hole masterfully.


But their explanation didn’t put my mind at ease one bit. In fact, the whole experience traumatized me. I had nightmares all through the night and now I can’t get those smirky smiles or that voice on the phone out of my head.

And I may never be able to play golf again.

National Farmers’ Bank in Owatonna: We finally met.

I had an appointment to do a video shoot for MinnPost last week in Owatonna, Minnesota, about an hour’s drive south of Minneapolis. My daughter Emily drove over from Rochester to have lunch with me and help me with the video. We had a little extra time after we ate, so we stopped downtown to see the beautiful bank designed by prairie school architect Louis Sullivan (with an amazing decorative scheme by George Grant Elmslie).

National Farmers' Bank (now Wells Fargo) in Owatonna, Minnesota (all photos by Steve Date)

Elmslie, along with William Gray Purcell and George Feick, designed the house we used to own (see previous post) and I became more and more interested in prairie school architecture during the years we lived there. The National Farmers’ Bank in Owatonna has long been on my bucket list of architectural sites, but for some reason I’ve never gotten around to stopping in.

(Serendipity note: I started writing this a few days ago. Then I went out of town for a couple of days and awoke yesterday morning to see a photo of the interior of the bank in a Minneapolis StarTribune feature story about Adam Young of Owatonna and his music group called Owl City.)

I’ve had a range of experiences with visiting and photographic historic sites, and those still open for business are not always very welcoming to gawkers and photographers. But as soon as Emily and I entered the grand lobby and started looking around, a bank worker hopped up from her office cubicle, gave us a friendly greeting, and suggested we climb up on the little balcony behind the clock for good photos. She was right. The view was magnificent.

The lobby stuns.

The Minnesota Historical Society’s website says this about Sullivan and the bank, “One of the first American architects to break free from the influence of classical revival styles, Louis Sullivan completed a series of eight banks in small Midwest towns during the last years of his career. The National Farmers’ Bank of Owatonna is arguably the best. Sullivan, known for a “form follows function” philosophy . . . designed the bank to resemble a jeweled strongbox, giving depositors a sense of security.”

Exterior detail by George Grant Elmslie

It is indeed a “jeweled strongbox” — a surprisingly beautiful presence in a small, midwestern town such as this. One can only imagine the impact it must have had on area farmers and town residents when it was built 103 years ago. It’s been well cared for and stands as one of the best surviving example of prairie school architecture anywhere.

I wonder how often the people who work in the bank and do business there regularly take a minute to stop to look around and appreciate it. I hope they do it every day.

What a great place to work, huh?


One of the huge stained glass windows comes alive when viewed from inside.


A visual feast wherever you look


Clock above the teller windows

We could only visit for a few minutes and then had to be on our way. Since National Farmers Bank folded many years ago, the building is now a Well Fargo branch. Before we left, Emily took some time to do a little banking. What a great historic monument — a century-old art masterpiece that still does the business for which it was built.

Function and form walk hand in hand here. Louis Sullivan and George Grant Elmslie would be happy with the way their ideas have endured and continue to have an emotional impact.

It was a thrill to experience this place. Next time I’ll visit when I have a little more time.

(to see more photos — and larger versions of these — go to my Flickr set here)

Emily (center) does a little banking

Blustery Day at the Lakes

I went for a bike ride yesterday around Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun in south Minneapolis. The weather was sunny and calm when I left home, but before long the wind whipped up and the clouds rolled in. I had my camera along.

Minnehaha Creek


Lake Harriet - a pleasant way to spend a June afternoon


Lake Harriet


Lake Harriet


Lake Harriet -- view of Bandstand and downtown Minneapolis


Lake Harriet hipster wears the colors of the lake


I think this puts to rest the myth that fishing is nerdy - once and for all.


Heading for Lake Calhoun


The ladies of Lake Calhoun


Lake Calhoun


Windsurfers on Lake Calhoun


Family fun

After I left the north shore of Lake Calhoun, the wind was in my face the whole way home. I put the camera away, gritted my teeth and cranked my way back to my house.

The end.

Happy Belated Birthday to “Billie” – (a.k.a. Emily Date)

Emily Date had one of those “significant” birthdays on Sunday.

It’s a little-known fact (unless you read last year’s birthday blog), but “Billie” was Emily’s nickname for her first few years. We had to take her in for Bilirubin tests for a couple of weeks after she was born due to the yellow hue of her skin. I guess “Billie” was a better nickname than “Jaundice”.

Emily was a happy kid -- and fashion conscious from the get-go.

She provided us with a lot of excitement in her younger years, like when she sustained a bad cut on her head when she was a year old. It was after that when she started to spend time sitting out by the garage smoking pot (see joint in her hand in photo below).

"Go sit by the garage, Emily. We're not going to allow you to do that stuff in this house!" - That's definitely a stoner stare.

Emily was a great kid — always funny and a sometimes a little unpredictable. Some of the personality traits from her childhood remain, while others have faded — such as a penchant for pretending to be famous statues.

Emily lights the way with her ice cream torch.

Emily always had a few little irrational fears growing up. She’s doing pretty well these days with balloons and clowns, but we didn’t know until fairly recently that she used to be afraid to be in the house alone.

Emily is ready to jump behind the couch after seeing a clown on TV.


Quite a shiner for the star of the Lynnhurst Park softball team.

Emily has always been very athletic and liked sports and exercise. I still remember those first soccer practices when she was 6 years old, gymnastics, softball, and later on, track.

I was so proud of her when she stuck with soccer even when it became apparent that she wasn’t going to be a starter in her senior year. She played for the love of playing and was a well-liked team leader.

She’s tried a lot of sports over the years and loves being active. She’s completed two marathons as well as a couple of half-marathons — the most recent being the Med City half-marathon in Rochester on Sunday.

.

Here’s one of my favorite photos of her. She was (I think) 14 or 15 and starting to look like the mature Emily we know and love today. The print has a nasty wrinkle running across it. I hope to find a better print or the negative some day.

I think Emily told me once that she doesn't like this photo, but I do like it and that's all that matters.

In 1999 she went off to college in Virginia and life was never the same again — for us or for her. But it was a great experience for her and I’m so glad she was able to do that. She made some good friends at UVA — not to mention meeting a young Mr. Cedermark from New Jersey — even though that friendship didn’t take off until a few years after graduation.

Emily worked as a tour guide during college at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Well, one thing led to another, as they say, and soon Emily and the Cedermark lad were wed and lived in Jersey City. They moved to Rochester, Minnesota almost a year ago to start the next chapter of their lives together.

Emily with Andrew and Craig - the two Cedermark boys she DIDN'T marry.


She married well. As we like to say in Minnesota - Ya, they clean up pretty good, don't they?

Emily has grown up to be a beautiful woman and genuinely good person. She’s got a good head on her shoulders and her heart is in the right place. What a wonderful feeling it is to be her Dad.

She recently contributed to my 5th grade team’s trip to Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in northern Minnesota — both financially and by volunteering to come with us as a chaperone. It was great for my students to be able to spend some time with her. They loved her and she pitched in and worked hard at making sure my girls were on top of things. I and my students can’t thank her enough for spending those 3 days with us.

Emily, Ajoyia and Josh at Wolf Ridge

On Emily’s birthday the other day, I got to run a half-marathon with her, her sister Lauren, Kyle’s brother Andrew and his friend Carianne in Rochester. It was a wonderful time. I’m so lucky to be able to do things like this with my kids and I’ll never forget how great it feels.

Med City Half-Marathon - only 13.1 miles to go! (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Emily, you’re 30. Wow, that’s amazing to think about — not in a way that you’re getting old, but to think about all you’ve accomplished and experienced already, the places you’ve been — and you’re only 30!

You’ve come so far from little (yellowish) baby “Billie”.

Thanks for being such a wonderful daughter.

Love you,
Dad