Photo a day from Week #18 of ’17

Here’s a photo from each day of Week #18.

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(4/29/17)  OK, I know this is a strange pick and an uninteresting photo, but it shows milestone for me. After putting off learning the “new” version of Final Cut Pro video editing system (FCPX) for a couple of years, I finally bit the bullet and put my nose to the grindstone (my old adult ESL class would have had fun with those two idioms) and figured out the new program enough to finish a video project for MinnPost (computer on the left). I was forced into this because my old program (FCP6) would not work with a second camera’s format that I used for the shoot. This feat may not sound like much, but believe me that being able to use the new program has lifted a great weight from my shoulders and brought me into the modern world of video editing.

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(5/1/17) May is here, we’ve gotten some rain, and spring colors are popping.  This is part of the Peace Garden near Lake Harriet in Minneapolis.

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(5/2/17) Otto is happiest when he’s either operating a machine or watching one. (Maybe some day he’ll figure out what the handles are for.)

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(5/3/17) The trees across the street from our house show beautiful fall-like colors when backlit by the setting sun.

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(5/4/17) Here’s another photo that’s more about the story than the image itself. Karen notice this light bulb in a gutter on the garage when she reached up to clean it out. A little detective work revealed that a critter of some sort (aka squirrel) chewed it off our heavy-duty string of lights on the nearby pergola and deposited it in the gutter for safe-keeping — to eat later, maybe? This is either very clever or pretty stupid, depending on who you ask.  But if the perpetrator is reading this, I have one thing to say . . . “YOU are dead meat if we catch you doing this again.”

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(5/5/17) My friend Aaron Westendorp (who I’m making a documentary film about) texted me this morning and said he’d been asked to introduce author and host of “Democracy Now” radio and TV shows, Amy Goodman, (a friend of Aaron’s) when she gave a speech this evening at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.  Never wanting to miss an opportunity to film Aaron in action, I made it over there to shoot his on-stage intro of Amy and was able to get some comments from Amy about Aaron. This photo is from the book signing after the show. Amy and co-author Denis Moynihan are in the foreground and Aaron in the center of the photo.

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(5/6/17)  The Frette Family makes its usual strong showing for a roofing party at Karen’s dad’s place in Cambridge, MN.  Only one person fell off the roof, which they tell me isn’t too bad.

. . . the behinder I get: 2 more weeks of a photo-a-day

Seems like more digging doesn’t get you out of the hole (!?!), but here are two more weeks of my photo a day project, including part 2 of our Arizona trip last month.

WEEK # 16

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(4/16/17) Easter Sunday morning hike in South Mountain Park, Phoenix. Ocotillo (“buggy whip cactus”) in bloom, with downtown Phoenix in the background. This beautiful park is a quick way to get out of town, do some mountain hiking, and see an undisturbed part of the Sonoran Desert. And this is a CITY Park!!!

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(4/17/17)  Staghorn Cholla cactus in bloom in the eastern section of Saguaro National Monument near Tucson

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(4/18/17) This room, now part of a store that sells art, dates back to the 1770s.  It’s in a preserved section of downtown Tucson that was once the Spanish-built Presidio de San Augustín del Tucson. In this photo, the original adobe walls, a strip of wallpaper, and the ceiling made of Saguaro Cactus ribs are visible.

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(4/19/17) A climber dangles above the road that winds its way to the top of Mt. Lemmon, northeast of Tucson.  The 30-mile drive up from the desert floor passes through climate zones that represent the geographical equivalent of a trip from Mexico to Canada. As you near the 9,159 summit, you’re surrounded by tall Ponderosa Pines and air temperatures that are usually about 30 degrees cooler than the city of Tucson below. It’s amazing that winter skiing is possible this far south.

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(4/20/17)  Surprises while traveling are often good, but this morning’s email was not one of them.  Our friend John Doom’s wife Ghislaine wrote to us that he was in the hospital in Flagstaff, having just been diagnosed with a nasty cancer in his back.  He was awaiting surgery this afternoon to install some metal rods to support vertebrae that had been compromised. We had planned to return our rental car in Phoenix today, but decided to drive from Tucson to Flagstaff to see him, to be with Ghislaine during the surgery, take her to their home in Sedona for the night and return her to the hospital in the morning.  In this photo, John gives us a little of his trademark wackiness and positive spirit as he prepared to go under the knife. John’s 4-hour surgery went well, and he is now receiving radiation treatment.

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(4/21/17) Apache Junction, Arizona at sunset. Karen’s dad (in blue shirt) prepares to leave his winter home and head back to Minnesota.

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(4/22/17) Amarillo en Arizona

 

WEEK #17

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(4/23/17) Omer takes the wheel for the first leg of the trip home, from Apache Jct. to Payson.

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(4/25/17) Back home, back yard in bloom.

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(4/26/17) The Happy Hour group ventured downtown this week, so here’s a view of the under-construction Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis. The Mall is being completely redesigned and revamped for the first time since in was built in the ’60s.

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(4/27/17) The kids are back!

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(4/28/17) OUTLOUD! a subgroup of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus did a song and dance parody of ONE! at this year’s MinnRoast, which is MinnPost’s annual fund-raising variety show at the Historic State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. I got such a close-up view because I’ve been lucky enough to be asked to shoot video of this event for the past five years.

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(4/29/17) We moved in to our house when this tree was blooming last year. Now, here it is again, right on schedule — one year to the day of closing and starting to move in. Happy anniversary, tree!

Springing ahead with a photo-a-day

Week #12 — and the official arrival of spring — brought us a variety of weather. But any time we’re playing golf in March, that’s an early spring around here.

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(3/19/17)  The ice is out on the Minneapolis lakes. This makes most of us happy, as long as we ignore the fact that we’re living in very unusual climatological times.

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(3/20/17) Golf !!! Roger was swinging like he’s been playing all winter.

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(3/21/17) Yes, this is a puzzling picture. Becky Ramgren is not always easy to figure out.  After talking her family into going to Florida without her, she decided to stop over to “check out” our house. For some reason, she took an interest in these small salt and pepper shakers. And here’s the really odd thing — we can’t find them now.

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(3/22/17) This is the rather disturbing view out the window of Eric the Red, a bar across the street from the new Vikings’s Stadium. I felt like we were going to be pillaged and/or plundered at any moment. When the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was across the street, this place was called Hubert’s, and it seemed a lot safer.

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(3/23/17) Doug Westendorp’s cut paper design warms up the house on a cold, wet day.  (See my previous post for more about Doug’s art.)

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(3/24/17) It’s raining eggs !!! (Hallelujah!)

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(3/25/17)  The stately Calhoun Beach Club, on the north shore of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, lends an air of sophistication to the neighborhood. Construction began on this building in 1928, but was paused when the depression began, and it wasn’t completed until after WWII. It’s always been a multi-use facility, now housing luxury apartments, drinking, dining, and an athletic club. Twin Cities baby-boomers will remember it as the home of WTCN-TV, with it’s local kids shows such as “Lunch with Casey” and the always-popular All-Star Wrestling (yes, they broadcast the wrestling matches from here!) Oh, and don’t forget about Matinee Movie with Mel Jass.

Doug Westendorp – visual musings

My friend Doug Westendorp is having an art sale and book launch on Saturday, April 1st. He has compiled some of the drawings he’s done over the past few months into a coloring book. He’ll also have some of his other work available.

It’s hard to describe the dream-like images in the coloring book. An odd combination of adjectives comes to mind, such as whimsical, lonely, peaceful, and upsetting. If that doesn’t make any sense, it’s because these drawings are perhaps better contemplated than discussed. Each one is a meditation, asking more questions than it answers.

Here are some examples from this series of drawings — both uncolored and colored — by Doug.

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Doug has been making art for many years, as well as teaching visual arts at the college level. He’s also a writer and a poet. You might remember him from my previous post about his son, Aaron, and the documentary film I’m making about him.  Oh, and by the way, he’s also a musician, and some of his music will be in the film.

Artists, of course, work in different ways.  Doug tends to find a theme and latch on to it for a while, until he either exhausts his energy for it or is inspired to move to something else. Since getting to know Doug over the past few years, we’ve acquired pieces from a couple of his different periods of work.

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If you’re interested in owning something beautiful, made by a local artist (who also happens to be a great guy), here’s the info for Doug’s sale next weekend.  If you’re reading this after the April 1st show, here’s Doug’s website. He’ll be glad to meet you at his studio in Minneapolis if you’d like to see more of his work.

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This cut paper design from last year hangs in our dining room.

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Still life by Doug is in the eating area of the kitchen.

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Doug with granddaughter Ramona Rae and daughter Jill at a show of his work last summer.

The New Frontier Lutheran Radio Hour (you don’t have to be a Lutheran to enjoy it)

I want you to let know about something pretty great that one of my friends is doing.

Although I’m not a churchgoer, several times over the past few years Karen and I have gone to a Christmas Eve service at one place or another. This winter, we decided to check out Diamond Lake Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis. It’s a nice looking building overlooking a small lake, and we drive by it all the time.

After the service, we bumped into Graydon Royce, whom I’ve known for quite a few years, mostly as a golf companion, but you might recognize as a recently retired theater critic at the Minneapolis StarTribune. After chatting for a while about his festive holiday sweater and a few other things, he suggested that we come back in a few weeks, when he would be doing his monthly radio-style show during (actually in place of) the 11:00 service.New Frontier Radio Hour program (1) Knowing of his interests and experiences in all things theatrical, it shouldn’t have surprised me that he was doing something like this — but it did surprise a bit, given that he’s in the sixth year of it, and he hadn’t mentioned it to me before. Geeze, the stuff you DON’T talk about on the golf course . . .

We took Graydon up on his invitation, and were in the audience for The New Frontier Lutheran Radio Hour,  “broadcasting live from the Great Fellowship Hall of New Frontier Lutheran Church, on the shores of Emerald Lake, in historic Midtown, USA” (which, honestly, looked a lot like a large, multi-purpose room at Diamond Lake Lutheran, which coincidentally also sits on the shore of a lake in Minneapolis, USA).

The “broadcast” is actually a podcast of the monthly installments of the show.  Click here to listen to past episodes, going back to the first performance in September, 2011. While there are many other talented and hardworking people from the congregation involved, both on stage and off stage, the show is Graydon’s brainchild, and he is the host, writer, and executive producer.

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“Everett Erickson” interviews Rev. Jean Sidner and her husband, Art, during the January show.

New Frontier is part radio play (think Lake Wobegon, but with actors giving voices to the characters), part music (members of the congregation + guests), part interview (a different religion or spirituality guest each month), and part sermon-like monologue (by Everett Erickson -AKA Graydon).

Graydon and his troupe of volunteer performers manage to produce a professional quality show because they have a lot of talents and skills -plus the guts to get up on the stage and do it. They’re also helped by some financial support from Thrivent Financial.

The live performance each month is a kind of a big deal.  It’s clear that Diamond Lake Lutheran’s congregation is pretty supportive of it, and I have the feeling that many of the church’s members attend both the earlier service as well as New Frontier’s 11:00 show.

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Announcer Jim Lowry (aka Eric Ringham) introduces the February show, while a host of musicians and actors await their turns at the mics.

If you want to see the show live, here’s Diamond Lake Lutheran’s website.  You have 2 more chances to attend before they break for the summer months.  The next show is on April 23 and then May 14. Get there before 11:00. Of course, you can listen to the podcasts any time and make up the visual images in your mind as you close your eyes and sit in front of your grandma’s big old RCA radio.

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Now THIS is the way to listen to The New Frontier Lutheran Radio Hour!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to take action? That is the question.

To actWe’re now beyond “To act, or not to act”. While it appears that “wait-and-see” continues as the modus operandi for most of those who voted for the person who currently holds the office of President, (although the Trumpcare proposal is causing a few cracks to appear) I think it’s safe to say that nearly all of us who voted against him have seen enough, and that there’s no more time for waiting.

Not since the Viet Nam War have the actions and words of a President produced such a polarized and angry climate.  I don’t think the degree of pissoffedness (or is it pissedoffness?) is not really measured by the public opinion polls. The latest poll has Mr. T at a 37% approval rating vs. 58% disapproval.  What I have observed is this — the 37% has been pretty quiet lately, and the 58% are mad as hell.

We are mad about this madness in Washington (and not just the White House)  and many of us want to be more involved in this fight — this “resistance”.  But we don’t really know where to direct all our new-found energy.

Karen and I were talking to someone at a coffee shop on Friday and “the situation” came up, as it often does these days. The woman we’d just met told us she was going to an event the next day, and that perhaps we might be interested as well.  It was the annual state meeting of TakeActionMinnesota.org, a political action and lobbying group that has been around for 10 years.

So we went.  It turned out to be a very good way to spend 3 hours.

I went to a breakout session on communicating with elected officials, where a large group was divided into tables of about a dozen people, each discussion facilitated by a TakeActionMN leader. Karen went to the health care session.

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My table included (L-R: John Lesch, MN State Representative, Nick Faber, St. Paul Federation of Teachers, a note-taker, and Stephanie Gasca, Minneapolis City Council candidate)

Nick Faber, Vice President of the St. Paul teachers union, led my group’s discussion. Also at my table were a candidate for Minneapolis City Council, a candidate for Mayor of St. Paul, and a State Representative.

State Representative Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis, the first Somali-American elected to statewide office in the the nation addressed the larger group. After lunch, U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, who recently finished second in the quest for the chair of the Democratic National Committee, mingled and chatted with anyone who was interested, and then got up and gave a rousing call-to-action speech.  I feel good about living in a city that elected both of these people — especially in these strange and turbulent times.

The energy level in the Paul & Sheila Wellstone Center for Community Building was high, and the message mostly hopeful and positive.  There’s much work to be done, but it feels like a lot of us are willing to be more informed and more engaged than we have in the past. What will that be for me? I’m not entirely sure yet. It will start with sending a check to TakeAction Minnesota.  Then I will move through the menu of options for involvement and decide what other things I’m willing to do.

Let’s keep in mind that this fight is not about one person. While he’s big and and obnoxious and scary, he’s a symptom, not the disease.

I will, no doubt, continue to complain.  But I have to do more than than. We all have to do more than that. Thanks to Cathy at the coffee shop, we at least got started.

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We even had a little march through some of the streets of West St. Paul after the meeting — in support of the diverse neighborhood that will be hit hard by the current administration’s choices and policies.

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Looking through my Photo-of-the-Day choices, I realized that the theme for last week was “getting together with groups of people” — some friends, some new acquaintances, and a couple of krazy kids. I began and ended the week with new groups doing things that were (mostly) new to me — good bookends for the week.

Here are my photos for Week #11 of 2017.

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(3/12/17) John Trepp is a writer of screenplays. Maureen and John invited us to join his group on Sunday morning for a reading of one of the scripts he’s been working on.  I got to play two parts — “Old Man #2” and a juicy role called “Gardener”.  After our reading of his 100-page screenplay, we gave John feedback about his story and character development. John can be seen sitting in the lower right of this photo, listening to us read his work.

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(3/13/17) One of the great old apartment buildings along the west side of the 4800 block of Chicago Ave. So. in Minneapolis

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(3/14/17) “Ten more minutes, you two! Then you can have lunch — IF there’s any left.”

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(3/15/17) This week’s version of our  weekly Wednesday Happy Hour group.  This week we met at Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis. We’re doing our best to hold it together through the winter until our founder and fearless leader, Mary Livingston, comes back to Minnesota and brings the other snowbirds back with her.

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(3/16/17) Modern Times Cafe on 32nd and Chicago brightens up a gray winter day.

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(3/17/17) Guess which holiday? (Don’t get thrown off by the bunny sweater.)

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(3/18/17) U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (Minnesota 5th District) takes a silly group selfie with some of the attendees at the TakeAction Minnesota annual meeting in St. Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two great theaters in one week

We saw two great shows (a play and a movie) at two very different Minneapolis theaters last week —King Lear at the Guthrie and Manchester by the Sea at the Riverview.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are known as a good cities for live theater, for several reasons. There are many smaller companies around town that have managed to thrive (or at least survive), and several renovated classic old theater buildings that bring in Broadway shows and such. But the Guthrie is the big daddy – it has the name, the reputation, and the history. While some may not like the relatively new (10 years) home as much as the old one, and while some may have other reasons for staying away, the Guthrie Theater continues to be a regional — and national — force in the theater world.

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The (new) Guthrie Theater had just been built when I shot this photo (June, 2006) from under the Stone Arch Bridge. It was designed by architect Jean Nouvel to make the most of (and fit into) an industrial site amid the old flour mills on the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. You can see its big, blue, protruding observation deck jutting toward the river.

This was my first King Lear, and I was enthralled by the whole production. (and the less-than-half-priced rush line tickets in the 6th row didn’t hurt.) It was a wonderful night, with the Guthrie doing what it does best.

An article in today’s paper says that attendance at the Guthrie is up this year, under the leadership of new artistic Director Joseph Haj.  But on Thursday evening, there were plenty of seats available.  So join the “Rush Club”, go on a week night, and get good seats at a deep discount.

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A bar at the Guthrie is dramatically lit — and gives a terrific views of the Mississippi River. The ghost-like projected figures of playwrights show up in unexpected places all around.

On the other hand, the Twin Cities have not been so kind to our movie theaters. St. Paul only has two operating movie houses within its city limits, and Minneapolis only has a handful. But one of them is a gem, and fortunately, not too far from home for us.

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Planning for the Riverview started a decade earlier than its late-1948 opening, but construction was delayed by WWII.

 

The Riverview Theater is a mid-century modern beauty that has managed to stay open for nearly 7 decades in a quiet neighborhood at the corner of 38th St. and 42nd Ave. South in Minneapolis. Just as with every American city, there used to be many neighborhood movie theaters, but most are gone now.

Any baby-boomer who walks through the Riverview’s lobby will feel nostalgic.  The colors, the furniture, lights, shapes, lines all remind us of what the world looked like when we were kids.

How do they do it, you ask? How have they survived when so many have failed?  A loyal following of regulars, yes.  An attention to preserving the mood and style of the time, yes. But here’s an idea for a business model for you:

  1. Show 3 or 4 different movies each day (one screening each) — some big names, some lesser known films or indies.
  2. Charge a small amount per ticket ($3.00 . . . and $2.00 for seniors!!!!!!!) and get very large crowds who buy lots of not-overpriced popcorn and other stuff. This place has a lot of seats, and they often fill most of them.

It’s one of those “so crazy it just might work” kind of plans. And it does work.

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So, with two memorable theater experiences, a visit from the grandkids, and 5 more weekdays of being old enough to not have to go to work, life was pretty good last week. Continuing my Photo-a-Day project (for 10 weeks now), here’s a snapshot from each day of the week.

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(3/5/17) Fun with static electricity

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(3/6/17) Apparently we’re not in a drought this spring, even with the lack of snow. Lake Nokomis is overflowing its banks in some places, making for some unexpected reflections (and wet shoes).

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(3/7/17) One more picture from the Riverview Theater.  Have you ever seen a cooler entrance to theater bathrooms?

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(3/8/17) Karen made these colorful ladies quite a few years ago out of scrap materials from re-siding her house. They used to be the “Swamp Girls”, living in the wetland behind her back yard.  When she sold the house two years ago, we moved to a rental house and because she wasn’t sure where we’d eventually land, she gave them to her friend Judy.  When we bought this house last spring, Judy thought they would look great in our back yard — and she was right. They are, from left to right – Kayci, Karen, and Karen’s Mom, each one holding a birdhouse or bird feeder.

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(3/9/17) The windows in the Guthrie Theater’s bridge to nowhere provide some interesting views. Glass enclosures around the openings give funhouse-style looks at the surrounding area. The upside down sign is the iconic “Gold Metal Flour” sign from the top of the grain elevator.

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(3/10/17) My neighborhood coffee shop, “Sovereign Grounds”.

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(3/11/17) Minnehaha Creek, downstream from the falls.