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.

Great bike rides of the Twin Cities that begin and end at my house #2: The Grand Rounds

(Note: To see my first “great bike rides” post from about a year ago, go here)

I used to think “The Grand Rounds” was a rather pretentious name added in modern times to the more than 125-year old string of parkways that wind through the city of Minneapolis. But I recently learned that the term dates back to 1891, when William Watts Folwell used it to describe landscape architect Horace Cleveland’s masterful proposal made to the newly-formed Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners 8 years earlier. Now that I know the name is that old, I like it.

Horace Cleveland as a young man. He was nearly 70 when he submitted his design for the Grand Rounds !

Minneapolis has one of the best urban park systems in the world. We would have none of it today but for the vision, forethought, and actions of an amazing string of parks commissioners (along with Cleveland’s detailed plans) in the late 19th and early 20th century, including Charles Loring, William Berry and Theodore Wirth.

I’ve biked most of this route many times, but never as a whole. So a couple of days ago, I decided it was time to grab my camera and saddle up. I’d seen different numbers for the total mileage — usually 50-53 miles, but I also knew that included some dead-end spurs. I decided to just do the main, basic route and see how it works as a loop.

Cleveland’s idea was to tie together some of the most beautiful parts of the city in such a way that you could make the whole trip without ever leaving a park-like setting. For the most part, it does that very well. The Minneapolis chain of lakes, along with the Mississippi River and Minnehaha Creek, are well-known treasures, but the ride also includes some impressive boulevards in the city’s northern areas. Most of the route is, indeed, “grand”, but there’s a short “missing link” of about 3 miles in the northeastern part of the ride that isn’t terribly scenic. Many plans have been proposed over the years to finish it, but so far it’s still missing. A variety of street options traverse the gap and get you downtown to join up with the river.

The dark blue line shows the Grand Rounds. Note the dotted lines through an industrial and residential part of northeast Minneapolis. The outline of the city limits can be seen where the shade of green changes.

Since I live a couple of block from Minnehaha Creek, I bike and run the southern part of the Grand Rounds a lot, but the beauty of the creek and the lakes never gets old. A quick loop around the lakes or a run around Lake Harriet never fails to lift my spirits.

My grand tour the other day ended up totaling about 37 miles. As I said, there are other ways to do it that add more mileage. The route also intersects with a lot of other bike paths on which you could wander all day. It’s a great city for biking.

Here are a bunch of photos from my trip. Along the way, I somehow lost my little notebook that I was writing the mileage in at photo stops (imagine me losing something), so the mile numbers are from “Map My Ride” and are approximate — also, of course, pretty meaningless unless you start at my house. But if you ever do want to start at my house, give me a call and I’ll go with you. It’s a great urban ride.

0.7 - We drop down into the Minnehaha Creek valley to get started.


1.5 - First look at good old Lake Harriet.


5.5 - Cedar Lake's south beach


6.7 - North side of Cedar Lake. The railroad and the Cedar Lake Trail (not ours) head toward downtown Minneapolis.


6.8 - on the other side of the railroad bridge is tiny Brownie Lake, an often overlooked little gem.


8.3 - Theodore Wirth Golf course. What a view!


8.8 - Statues depicting Theodore Wirth (Minneapolis Parks Commissioner in the early 1900s) with some kids for whom he helped provide a beautiful place to play, are near clubhouse of the golf course that bears his name.


10.7 - Victory Memorial Drive honors those who died in WWI


15.2 - Downtown skyline over the rail yards of "Nordeast".


16.2 - Another peak at downtown from the 10th hole at Columbia Park, another very nice municipal golf course.


17.3 - Quiet, residential neighborhood on St. Anthony Parkway with happy, safe, above-average kids.


20.8 - After a trip through the "missing link", we're downtown.


21.3 - Almost everything you need to know about Minneapolis is represented in this photo -- flour mills, St. Anthony Falls, Mississippi River, hydroelectric plant, barge going through lock & dam, James J. Hill's stone arch railroad bridge. This area is ground zero for Minneapolis .


21.5 - New I-35W bridges show no trace of the terrible tragedy that happened here 4 years ago.


23.2 - Back to green and blue landscape. The Mississippi River from West River Road across from the University of Minnesota.


28.0 - Minnehaha Falls


29.3 - The path hugs Minnehaha Creek


30.2 - Lake Hiawatha


32.0 - Lake Nokomis -
About five more miles and we're home - around the lake and up the Parkway.

Great bike rides of the Twin Cities . . . that begin and end at my house: Volume 1.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are some of the best bicycling cities anywhere. We have a LOT of bike trails, dedicated lanes and bike-friendly streets. During these precious few months of non-snow weather, many bikers make the most of it and hit the road.

Serious bikers live in a different world than the rest of us do. We catch glimpses of them on bike paths, streets and highways, but they often ride places that others never see. I’ve been doing more biking this summer than in past years and in doing so, have “discovered” some interesting and beautiful routes that real bikers have been keeping to themselves for years.

Mrs. D and I have been riding parts of this route for a few weeks. I combined these sections into a 26 mile loop last week and took a few photos along the way. These photos were obviously shot on two separate days — one cloudy and one sunny.

So here goes — a 26 mile photojourney. All distances are measured from my house, which will do you absolutely no good unless you ride with me.

So saddle up. Let’s ride.

First stop at mile 2.6 is Lake Nokomis. We see a deer. We get off our bikes and approach it quietly. It doesn’t run away. In fact it doesn’t move at all.

Notice how the urban passers-by don't even notice this magnificent buck just a few feet away.

Then it’s across E. 54th St. all the way to Minnehaha Park. Here we enter Fort Snelling State Park. At mile 6.3 we are in the upper area where the old fort is. Down below is a wonderful natural area near the river. This fort is the first major settlement of non-native people in Minnesota. It was never actually used for defense purposes, but as an outpost to regulate the fur trade in the mid- 19th century.

Fort Snelling, looking much as it did in the 1830s

After a short section through the woods, the bike path leads to the Mendota bridge. The 3/4 mile bridge bike path is an interesting dichotomy of loud, rushing traffic on one side and a beautiful, serene vistas of the river valley on the other.

These REAL bikers probably aren't happy that I stopped on the bridge to take a picture.


It's beautiful looking down from the bridge at the Minnesota River's last mile before joining the Mississippi.

The Mendota Bridge is the only place I know of where you can see the skylines of both downtowns — Minneapolis and St. Paul — at the same time.

From the Mendota Bridge - Minneapolis skyline in the distance with Fort Snelling in the foreground


This view is taken from the same spot as the last one, just turning about 90 degrees to the right. The Mighty Mississippi makes its way toward downtown St. Paul

After we cross the bridge we go through the old town of Mendota, one of the oldest settlements in Minnesota. Here we pick up a great bike trail that runs next to the railroad tracks near the river.

The The Jean Baptiste Faribault house (1839) is one of several historic buildings in Mendota.

At mile 8.7 we get a view of the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. This little sand point is sacred ground to the Dakota people, who believe it to be the center of the world and the place where they originated from.

The muddy Minnesota River (foreground) joins forces with the Mississippi.

At about the 10 mile mark we enter the Lilydale Regional Park. We get glimpses of the river and some large areas of native prairie grasses, but the coolest thing about this part of the path is the sections that go through some densely wooded areas.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

At 12.8 miles we emerge from the wilderness at Harriet Island, just across the river from Downtown St. Paul. The Jonathan Padelford is the flagship of the Padleford Packet Boat Company, which owns several river boats used for various types of excursions up and down the river.

The Jonathan Padelford docks at Harriet Island in St. Paul

At 13.7 miles, the very patriotic Wabasha Bridge welcomes us to downtown St. Paul.

Lots of flags welcome us to St. Paul


Rice Park is just a block over and worth a look. It’s a beautiful little urban park surrounded by several interesting buildings.

1980 US Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks in perpetual celebration across the street from Rice Park. The guy behind him just wants to get the damn railing clean.


At 15.1 we go up the hill by the St. Paul Cathedral and on to Summit Avenue. First stop is the home of railroad tycoon James J. Hill. It’s pretty impressive.

James J. Hill House. The inside wows too.

We pass many big, beautiful, old mansions on Summit Avenue. Governor Tim lives in one of them, at mile 17. As I’m considering whether to go up and ring the bell to see if he wants to come out and ride, a black car with tinted windows pulls out of the driveway. Maybe Timmy’s in the backseat, I don’t know. What a thrill to be a paparazzo.

The next President of the United States could be in that car. And pigs might be able to fly if they flap their legs hard enough.

After a couple more miles straight down Summit Avenue, past Macalester College and the University of St. Thomas, we reach the river again at mile 19.6. Another 2-mile stretch down E. River road brings us to the Ford Parkway bridge. At mile 21.5 we stop for one last photo of the river and then re-enter Minneapolis.

Back across the Mississippi river one more time.

We go past Minnehaha Falls (more about that in a future post) and head home on Minnehaha Parkway. A steep hill toward the end helps us make sure we got a workout.

Home again at 26.1 miles. Thanks for coming along. I know this was a long post. Reading all the way to the end was more grueling than the bike ride. Congratulations.

Intersection near Lake Nokomis is a glimpse of a bygone era.

I dabble in nostalgic feelings from time to time. I’m not somebody who believes that “everything was better when we were kids”, but I do like to visit places that conjure up old memories now and again.

One of the great things about bike-riding is that you can cover a lot of territory in an hour or two and explore places that you might not otherwise see. Recently, I’ve been biking through the neighborhoods east of Lake Nokomis in south Minneapolis. It’s a quiet, unnoticed (by many) corner of the city where you can find areas that seem stuck in a time period that I do miss sometimes.

The neighborhood around East 50th St. and 34th Ave. South has become particularly interesting to me. I’ve eaten at al Vento, a great Italian restaurant, several times over the years, but hadn’t really taken the time to look around at some of the other buildings until I pedaled through there a couple of times this week.

Al Vento is a great neighborhood Italian Restaurant. It's in one of those classic brick early 20th-century buildings that was built as a stop on the streetcar line.

The area around this intersection has more than the usual share of homey, family-named, non-chain businesses — McDonald’s Liquor Store, Oxendales Market, a cake and pastry shop called 3 Tiers, and a couple of small dental offices. My favorite building is the office of Dwight C. DeMaine, D.D.S. It’s a tiny, art deco gem, so beautiful that it makes me want to have a tooth drilled. I love this building and wish I could live in it.

Dr. DeMaine's office at 3319 E. 50th St.

I think I like this guy.

After your root canal, how about a little bowling? Around the corner and half a block down is Skylane Bowl, an unpretentious, unchanged, small bowling alley that would be a great movie set. I haven’t been inside yet, but you can be sure I’ll be lacing up some shoes one of these days.

Skylane Bowl, 5019 34th Ave. So.

In the mood for some Mexican food? You can’t miss this place. Say hi to this guy and his trusty burro on your way in.

Dominguez Family Restaurant at 3313 E. 50th St.

Of course, there are some NON-examples of nostalgia-inducing architecture, too.

Sorry, Dr. Shand, but Dr. DeMaine has you beat in the dental office architecture contest. 1973 just isn't a good look.

I didn’t grow up in this neighborhood, but in some ways I feels as if I did — and wish I had. It has the sand dunes of Blaine beat, hands down (sorry Blaine), for character.

A quiet, urban neighborhood where you can buy groceries, a bottle of booze, eat Italian or Mexican food, go bowling, get a cavity filled and revisit the 50’s and 60’s all in one afternoon — what more do you need?

Buy local. Nokomis, USA