On Thursday the 22nd I flew north to Minnesota. Time once again to visit the Minnesota State Fair. Regular readers know that I never miss it, an opportunity to connect with a lot that is good about my native state. Picked up a Hertz car and zoomed to Bob Woehrle’s house, two miles east of the fairgrounds. Quickly changed into shorts, grabbed my camera, and hopped on bikes (what a great way to get there, no parking hassles). We were inside the fine-arts show by 4:25, and less than an hour I bought a great oil painting, a total Minnesota scene titled “Waiting for Swimmers, Long Lake”:
Our house is filled with original art from the fair, and it will be a great addition. Check and done, so we headed down the street for a beer and a yak. Bob is good with words, and every time I see him he issues a couple of memorable phrases; that afternoon it was “more angles than geometry,” a reference to a schemer he knows!
Refreshed, we plunged into the Creative Activities building; my fair visits follow a strict formula, and stop #2 is always a chance to see the panoply of crafts; that day we spotted a couple of new categories, admiring blue ribbons in beadwork and, yes, teddy bears. Members of the Minnesota Quilting Society, including Kathryn Nelson (below), were plying their craft and answering questions from the curious, like your scribe.
Stop #3, the Agriculture building, a mixed bag of gifts from the earth: cultivators of African violets, creators of crop art (a portrait of Elvis made entirely from seeds and grains), the state’s largest pumpkin, and ribbon-winning tomatoes, zucchini, onions, and more. New for 2012 was a sampling stand – a fairly large installation actually – of the Minnesota Craft Brewers’ Guild. For eight bucks you got four small glasses of different beers from the same genre – Bob chose darks and I went with hoppy ones, pale ales mostly. Yum!
Fortified, we headed toward the animal barns, stopping at the All the Milk You Can Drink booth, where I downed “three whites and one chocolate.” Then into the animal barns, rabbits first, then sheep. As I always do, I grabbed a handful of fleece from a table, and encouraged Bob to do likewise. After about five nuzzles of sheep chins and ears, softly saying “Doo doo doo,” the nonsensical term of endearment I use with MacKenzie, Bob said “you have this kinship with animals don’t you?” That propelled me into an elegy about domestication, truly one of humankind’s greatest feats, and something I ponder, and thank God for, every time I visit the fair. As I’ve said before, I just wish that, in general, modern agriculture (and we who are consumers) treated those gifts better.
We stopped for one more beer, then found our bikes and rode home. It was a splendid outing, one of the better – of dozens of trips – to the fair. Back at Bob’s, I did a bit of work, and fell hard to sleep on their comfy living-room couch.
Bob and I are both early risers, so we had coffee brewed and into a yak by six on Friday morning. His wife Paula joined us for a bowl of cereal. At 7:30 I hopped in the car and headed north, bound for the lake cabin (a house, really) of pal-since-1963 Tim McGlynn and his partner Sue Pehrson. The visit was becoming an annual after-the-Fair tradition, three years of the past four. Driving north, I wondered whether it made sense, because I could only stay 24 hours, but as soon as I pulled into their pine-lined driveway and looked down on Big Trout Lake, I knew I was in the right place, all the more so after the first few minutes with dear friends. Tim is maybe the best-informed person I know, a critic of the goofiness in commerce and politics that also makes me crazy. So we always have a lot to talk about.
At one, we hopped in the boat and motored through a chain of lakes to lunch at a dockside tavern and more yakking. High point of the day was an 18-mile bike ride with Tim and Sue, a great loop through the woods and past lakes – it’s not wilderness, but the water and air are clean. We needed to cool down, so we put on swim trunks and dove into the lake. Then grabbed some beers and planted ourselves on chairs at the end of their dock. The distinctive cry of the loon punctuated our conversation. We felt both hugely fortunate and quite lazy – we sat by the water from 5:30 until after the sun went down, three hours later. Ate a salad and a bowl of ice cream with strawberries, and was asleep by 9:45.
Woke up early Saturday morning, cleaned up, made some coffee, and sat on the porch overlooking the lake. Hugged Sue and Tim at 8:45 and hopped in the car, aimed south to Minneapolis. The drive back was faster, even with patches of heavy rain. I had nearly an hour before meeting nephew Evan for lunch, so I filled the time with a nice stop at the house of long friends Phil and Deb Ford. It was a speedy yak, but we got up to date, and they showed me a nice home-expansion project that will yield a guest bedroom – naturally I invited myself for some future dates!
Evan and I had a sandwich and fries at Sun Street Bread, a new bakery-café in South Minneapolis. After not seeing him for nearly a decade, two visits in less than two months felt really good. He’s a great young man, huge work ethic, and a plan to succeed in screenwriting and film. He just might do it!
Flew home at four, happy to have an agreeable seatmate, Mary Jo, another transplanted Minnsotan; she has been a real estate agent in Dallas for many years. Got home at 7:30, but the house was way too empty (Linda was with the girls in D.C., and MacKenzie was with our friend Consuelo).