the listenerd

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Tag: minnesota

The Hidden Gems of Saint Paul (some are not hidden)

This post is a continuation of The Best Places to Go in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

The Black Dog Cafe: There are many things worth noting about The Black Dog Cafe. There’s the fact that the establishment is a bohemian stronghold, holding steady for more than a decade in an ever-changing Lowertown neighborhood. It has weathered dug up sidewalks and diverted streets in an area that seems to be under constant construction.

There’s the solid coffee, the homely sandwiches, the beer and wine license, the neighborhood regulars who have been coming back for years. There’s the fact that it’s a pretty damn decent place to get some work done, mid-week, late-afternoon. And the soundtrack at the Dog is sometimes even quite GOOD, making you jealous enough to pop out your earbuds and listen. (“What is this Monster Mash bullshit?” asked one teen with disgust, in as authentic a word-of-mouth endorsement of an establishment’s aesthetic as can, perhaps, be had these days.)

But all of these characteristics pale in comparison to the true spiritual core of this cafe. They are Lilliputian relative to a single epic painting that once graced the Black Dog’s walls — maybe even for just a month or two — but whose lavender glow suffuses the space to this day.

The Black Dog has long hung the work of local artists from its exposed timbers. And nigh on ten years ago, a truly EPIC painting was hung. Imagine, if you will, an outsized masterpiece, 10 feet high by 6 feet wide (mind and memory may be exaggerating this beast’s scope and quality, but go with it). Limned with a gold filigree frame, it was. In the center of the painting, astride a mighty white steed, sat Napoleon Bonaparte. His war horse rearing, the martial figure sat resplendent in military garb.

And YET. The features gracing the Little Corporal’s mien did not add up to the familiar mug of the diminutive French Emperor. INSTEAD, peering out from beneath that famous bicorne, was the familiar (and, let’s be honest, innately sexualized) visage of one PRINCE ROGERS NELSON. Yes. Prince. (He may have even been wearing a purple uniform? Prince-as-Napoleon astride a white stallion in epic scale. It was incredible.)

Also, the bathrooms here are quite roomy.

The Blue Door Pub: Everyone knows about the dripping cheese coming FROM INSIDE THE BURGER, the craft beer selection, and the ubiquitous TVs forcing sporting events into your line of sight at the Blue Door.

Everyone also knows about the fried green beans. And the peanut butter on the hamburgers. So I will not waste any time recommending nearly all of those things. Instead, I will offer this tip: Should you find yourself waiting for one of the tables (which are frequently in high demand), ask one member of your party to stand diligently outside the Pub while you wander over to the antique mall next door. There, you should look for two things:

1) Bottle openers
2) Pendleton wool shirts

The shop frequently has an excellent selection of both, and I highly recommend buying bottle openers when you need to either break a $20 or alleviate your own guilt for browsing in a thrift shop or antique store for too long.

Micawber’s book store: It is an old and tired man that endorses a neighborhood bookstore. But let’s be honest with ourselves: I just bought a 1984 Dodge Ram pickup truck. What other kind of man could I be? Micawber’s is the rare sort of book shop where, when one asks the proprietress about a novel that’s slated to come out, she will not only be conversant in said author’s oeuvre, but will also know offhand the UK and American release dates of the publication in question. It is the kind of place that has a generous children’s section that isn’t too babyish and that’s easy to sit down and have a read in. It’s the kind of place that offers cogent, well-argued, on-shelf book recommendations that were written by ACTUAL HUMAN BEINGS on the staff, and who may even be in the store. There is wood there. And paper. And ideas. You can wander for an hour.

Additionally, if you cross the street to the Finnish Bistro kitty-corner, you can DEFINITELY order a Finnish breakfast, which includes both pickled herring and lox. You dig?

Unique Thrift Store: Let’s not bullshit bullshitters here. Unique Thrift Store has some pretty weird shit going down. It sells big-ass motel art – trees with blue leaves and pink flowers in some sort of hideous-bullshit modern-expressionist morass of a style. It sells bags of toys, grouped in a way that seems to have some sort of inscrutable organizing principle (perhaps organized by weight? Or volume?) for $2 or $3 apiece.

I once bought some Don Ho tumblers there that loop through the absurd and swoop right back toward the divine. I think the place might also sell used mattresses? Which is unsanitary at best and illegal at worst. To look at the clothes section is to look at row upon row of heavily used and frequently stained garments of innumerable eras.

Product turnover at Unique Thrift Store is high. The sewing machine you see there one morning is replaced by two others eight hours later. This place moves product. It also moves people. Located off of Rice Street (and around the corner from The Lamplighter, Saint Paul’s only strip club), the Unique draws patrons from all walks – down-on-their-luck dads looking to outfit the family home, thrifty hipsters trying to find the leather jackets of a just-right era, power-shopping deal-hunters who have a load of laundry in the ‘mat next door, kids begging parents for cheap toys, assholes trying to procure reasonably priced kitsch barware. Everyone. It’s almost always grubby, frequently crowded and more-often-than not chaotic. I recommend it.

[Please note: I might do a couple more of these.]


The Best Places to Go in Saint Paul, Minnesota

I would like to preface this post by saying that I do not know the best places to go in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I will not, however, let that stop me from telling you what the best places to go in Saint Paul, Minnesota are.

(Please remember this: Vanity and humility are at constant war within any written piece.)

The Saint Paul Bagelry: The first, best place in Saint Paul is not IN Saint Paul, however, it is NAMED the Saint Paul Bagelry. It is also named Maui Wowi Smoothies. You’re not reading that wrong. It has two names. (You may, at this point, be questioning my competence. And for that I applaud you.)

Know this: The Saint Paul Bagelry not ONLY cooks their delicious bagels daily, they not ONLY whip their own cream cheese, they not ONLY blend a lip-smacking array of smoothie and coffee drinks (the likes of which Jamba Juice could not, in a thousand pear-lives of juicing, come close to touching), BUT they ALSO play real, vinyl records. They play shit I hate: Joni Mitchell (sorry), they play shit I love: James Brown (sorry). Most importantly, they play all this shit on actual records. Their bagel sandwiches, should you care about the menu, include The Al Green (egg and veggie – a personal favorite), The Luther Vandross (bacon, ham, sausage, egg and more) and the Isaac Hayes Hot-Buttered Soul (bacon, egg and cheese).

And so you may find yourself one Sunday, mid-morning, at the very time a more pious family would be attending church, sitting in a Roseville, Minnesota strip mall at a restaurant named after a municipality in which it does not even do business, listening to Bob Marley and The Wailers on vinyl over the loudspeakers, eating an Al Green sandwich on a toasted salt bagel, drinking a Kona Hawaiian coffee and sipping a brain-freezing Black Lava Beach smoothie.

It is due to this perfect combination of insanities that the Bagelry earns the listenerd’s highest recommendation.

Swede Hollow Cafe: Located in the Dayton’s Bluff area of Saint Paul, Swede Hollow Cafe is notable for the following things (in order of importance):

-Delicious mochas and cubanos, each complemented by a delightful little cigarette-sized lagniappe of chocolate
-An inviting ambience made extra cozy by the limited seating
-No fewer than TWO kinds of cobbler on weekends
-An outstanding French toast that requires no additional syrup
-Inadequate hours of operation
-An awesome painting of a lady with raven-black hair and a red skirt that I would like to someday purchase (the painting, not the skirt).

Swede Hollow Cafe is closed on Sundays. Go for brunch on a Saturday, sit outside if it’s warm enough. Order one dish and split it. Do not buy that painting (it is mine).

Choo-Choo Bob’s: I would expect that Choo-Choo Bob’s holds the greatest concentration of cooties in the Twin Cities metro area, if not the entire Midwest. The absolute PINNACLE of toddler train culture, CCB sells toy and model trains, from the highly commercialized Thomases and Berties holding down the back wall to the adult electrics enticing passersby out front. They also peddle tiny trees, faceless little men and cows, anomalous outbuildings and pretty much anything else it would take for a certifiably crazy person to recreate a realistic miniature landscape whose sole purpose is for a tiny train to repeatedly drive past it.

The play tables in the back of the store sometimes host birthday parties and they regularly draw armies of children, snot-nosed and entranced – each seemingly with a thousand germ-laden hands (think Sleipnir, but with mucus) – to come, play, move freight, and buy.

The Midway Ramsey County Yard Waste Removal Site: It is only if you have never BEEN to the Ramsey County Yard Waste Removal Site that you would question that such a place deserves its spot on this list. The RCYWRS has EARNED this praise. And I spit upon you for thinking otherwise.

Do you have yard waste? Great. Take it to the RCYWRS and dump it there in a stinking heap. Empty your bag and drive away with the satisfied air of a person who has simply left his problems for someone else to clean up. (You must be a resident of Ramsey county to take a dump here; if you are not a resident, though, I still encourage you to do a ridealong.)

Here, at the Ramsey County Yard Waste Removal Site, you will see the largest leaf pile you have ever laid eyes upon. Here, you will witness an ORDERLY procession of civic-minded Ramsey-county citizens pulling up their cars, trucks and trailers to an ENORMOUS pile of yard waste, wearily getting out of those vehicles, SLOWLY dumping out their sticks, leaves, branches, clods of dirt and the occasional, accidental hunk of dog feces and then nearly backing into someone as they hastily attempt to leave the facility.

To me, this yard waste facility is the essence of America. I just don’t know why. (It is a HUGE pile of AWESOME waste. That is why.)

[Please note: I will write one or two additional posts in the upcoming week to complete this list. Included: The Blue Door, The Black Dog, Micawbers and more.]

Video: Hüsker Dü live at First Ave, 1985

Links for 4.6.10: 22 Tips for Better Abs and Worse Underarm Odor

*The Internet: Is net neutrality a goner? Internet users, prepare to be throttled.

*Language. I love metaphors like a cat loves New Yorker cartoons. (Not sure. Hi, Susan Orlean.) Read high school analogies and metaphors: “The thunder was ominous sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play.” This is like a gentle email forward from a vaguely out-of-touch relative. Sweet. [mefi]

*Games: Scrabble will now allow proper nouns. WHAT? So you’re trying to tell me that Words with Friends is now my bastion of word-game sanity? Out-fucking-rageous.

*Quotes: “[The Internet] is in direct opposition to the art of music being treated with respect.” -Jack White [nme via vulture]

*Chess: Playing Chess with Kubrick – well worth the read. “But as soon as Kubrick opened the door I felt an immediate kindred spirit. He looked and acted like every obsessive theoretical physicist I have ever known.” I recommend that you treat this article with the respect it deserves.

*Video: An 8-Bit Dr. Horrible remake. IF YOU REMEMBER DR. HORRIBLE. [laughing squid]

*Social issues: Should prisoners be used to create electricity to run America’s computers? Also, what is Soylent Green made out of?

*Ore: I never used to link to videos explaining how iron ore gets extracted from Minnesota mines. That means some people will call this progress, and some people will call me an asshole. Still.

*Video: Sound from Diagrams. The video sounds like an alien peeing into a fish tank. [coudal]

*Today’s links: F. Sometimes you have to not know where you’re going in order to get anywhere. (I just made that up. Obviously.)

Links for 6.3.09: Sexy uglies, wild dog commuters, Seeking Seekins, pudding…

*Cork: Is it art or is it cork? This reminds me, I have several cases of wine that need drinking. Boxed wine. But I will be wearing cork pants while drinking it. [bits]

*Twitter: Two interesting tidbits from this post from Economix (a highly recommended blog from the NYT) about Twitter – 1) The median number of lifetime tweets among all twitter users is one. 2) Men are 15% more likely to follow men on twitter than they are to follow women. Also, Kirstie Alley may have found her medium. I don’t know what that says about her. Or the medium.

*Music covers: The 20 personality traits of record and CD covers. They’re not exactly personality traits, but they do point out some of the form’s shorthand. [presurfer]

*Trailers: The video for the Beatles Rock Band game is lovely and amazing and animated and lovely and nice. Bollocks.

*Food: Ice cream that turns into pudding? What will they think of next? Beer that turns into martinis? OMG, BRB. [lowindustrial]

*Humans: Nerve puts out its own list of the 20 Sexiest Ugly People. Biz Markie at #15 is an inspired choice. Additionally, and for the record, my looks have been compared to John Malkovich’s on a number of occasions. And now I’m crying. Crying into my cupped hands. While typing this. [urlesque]

*States: In Nate Silver’s (is he Sir Nate Silver yet?) most recent article for Esquire, he points out that Minnesotans are happier with the state they live in than Hawaiians, and are near the top of the happy meter among states. (The article doesn’t appear to be online yet.)

*Local: I saw Minneapolis artist and man-about-town Scott Seekins yesterday and promptly reported him to SeekingSeekins. (I used the name JOSH in this report and may have exaggerated some portions of the encounter/sighting. Don’t hate me because I’m stupid. Or because I look like John Malkovich.)

*Commuting: Wild dogs take the commuter trains from the suburbs to the city in Russia. Fucking freeloaders. [treehugger]

*Local: A short story in the fiction issue of the New Yorker by Jonathan Franzen takes place in our beloved St. Paul. This local blogger was contacted by a NYer fact checker about the story.

Also, Heavy Table names the city’s two worst cups of coffee. AND I AGREE. (Also, Nina’s has pretty nasty coffee. Java Train also pours a terrible cup. Great train, though.) [brauer]

*AN OPEN LETTER TO HARPER’S: Open up your RSS feed. Make your page somewhat readable. Good content; please let me see access it without such pain. Thank you.

Links for 5.6.09: YouTuuuuube, car culture, Minnesota beer…

*Multiplicity: This is the only way to watch YouTube. However, I would also like it if it were always on and you could tune each of the channels individually.

*Auto: Nate Silver, anointed voice-on-earth of the Lord our God Jesus H. Christ, says that Americans are shifting away from car culture.

*Metal: Metal Hammer, after thoroughly researching the matter, names the “top metal celebrities.” Javier Bardem is an inspired choice, in my opinion.

*Local: I hate City Pages. But I love beer. I’m OK on the whole question of Minnesota. All in all, read this article on Minnesota beers. SURRRRRLYYYYY.

*Twitter: My qualitative study of Twin Cities twitterers has hit a snag. Mostly because I feel like the “local” angle is once again like being forced to eat broccoli.

Links for 2.1.09: Journey’s Pineda, Norm Coleman and The Big Fix…

*The Economy: The economy is fucked. Here’s a long NYT magazine article on “The Big Fix,” Obama’s options in reforging America’s institutions.

*Journey: Arnel Pineda, Journey’s new lead singer, rocked the faces of America’s corporate elite at the Super Bowl pre-game. According to reliable sources. Well, sources.

*Mixes: The Daily Swarm interview’s Justin Ouliette on the new Muxtape – “If you’re a band, Muxtape will be the place to do all these things as a complete alternate to MySpace. Or if nothing else, as an alternative to having a web geek in your band.” Sorry, web geeks.

*Football: You can rate Super Bowl commercials at Thummit. (Re-watch them here, too.) [somewhat frank]

*Writing: Remembering John Updike at the New Yorker. I never knew him.

*Twitter: How Twitter Was Born.

*Local: Norm Coleman vs. Rod Blagojevich. Wow. “I can’t think of a good reason why Rod Blagojevich has become the most hated man in America while Norm Coleman still walks the streets with his head held high.” [minnpost]

Links for 12.23.08: I’m going on vacation after this

*WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: Pete Wentz weighs under 140 pounds. (This article will most probably DISGUST you.) Also, I way 2.5X as much as Fall Out Boy? [caitlin]

*Mashups: Read an essay on Girl Talk. Well, hello! The writer seems to dislike Slate! (This essay is LONG. For the internet.) [rawkblog]

*Graphics: The Ludacris-Proximity Sadness Meter – in which it is scientifically proven that the closer adoring young fans are to rapper Ludacris, the happier they are.

*Feeds: Digg now offers a whole slew of feeds through Twitter. I may come off as a pretentious douche, but I hate using Twitter as a traditional feedreader, and can barely even stomach following heavy linkers. I am there mostly for the art. And I say that without a drop of sarcasm. Seriously. Effers.

*Local: The New York Times takes a look at Minnesota’s Senate recount. Says the Times‘ Editorial Board: “It’s too early to say whether Mr. Franken or incumbent Senator Norm Coleman will win, but one thing is becoming clear. Minnesota is pretty good at running elections.”

*Fashion(?): If you are a THRASHER (as we used to call them), you may want to purchase the Sk8 Wallet, which is made from a recycled skateboarding deck.

*Pimping: As noted on the Jobby Blog, my colleague Hans recently wrote for Slate on the Lipstick Index (an old saw and theoretical – unofficial – recessionary consumption measure) and its more modern iterations.

*NOTE: I am going to CES when I return from vacation. If there’s anything I should see there, please let me know. Warning: I’m not easily enthused.

*Vacation: I am going to the great northland tomorrow. If I don’t return, you can have my blog.

Links for 11.24.08: Blender dips, ROCK posters, Lizard People guy emerges…

*Look!: This Flickr set of rock posters will smash your face. Then, as you recover, it will smash your neck and upper shoulders. It’s that cool. [coudal]

*Questions of music and models: The Fray will debut one of their new tunes on a 1-minute trailer for the upcoming season of Lost. [murketing]

*Rumors: Blender is being liquidated. Who isn’t?

*Rumors: Venture Beat passes on the news that iLike, the Facebook application and social music service that everyone tolerates, is looking for a buyer. Who isn’t?

*Rumors: If anyone is looking to help liquidate – or, in other words buy, – the listenerd, you know EXACTLY where you can go! (To the About section, sub-section – “contactual obligations.” Or call my cell. Or IM me. Even if it’s red or invisible-looking.)

*Charts: Metal Sucks has consolidated Rolling Stone‘s list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time down to just the metal men. RONNY DIO tops the list.

*Drawing: Old Navy sells Charley Harper shit now? I make pot roast from a 50s/60s cookbook that Harper illustrated sometimes. What can I say? It’s an effing recession.

*Sound FX: Put this up next to the sad trombone and the drum roll in your single-serving site arsenal. [april]

*Voting: If you have been wondering who voted for Lizard People in the Minnesota Senate race, the man has stepped forward. And he looks just like you’d expect him to look.

Links for 11.22.08: Lizard People, the Top Ten beards, Radiohead vids…

*Beards: Here are the Top 10 beards of all time. Ever. This is the final list. Putting Lincoln as low as #8 is a slap in the face to every red-blooded American. [coudal]

*Video: YouTube will be holding its first-ever live event tonight. will be there, in all probability “getting retarded.” [hypebot]

*Listicles: Bone up on Paste’s Top 50 Albums of 2008. Abraham Lincoln didn’t even make this list. Ugh. [stereogum]

*Radiohead: That one band will be debuting three new music videos on MySpace Music over the next couple of weeks. I linked to “Weird Fishes” yesterday. Look it up. [licensing plate]

*Word Jazz: This is a few years old, but listen anyway. A Ken Nordine podcast taken from a “Best of Word Jazz” radio show on Chicago Public Radio. Also, I just contacted Ken Nordine asking him to join twitter. I’ll let you know what happens.

*Lizard People: By now, everyone knows about a certain Minnesota voter casting his or her vote for “Lizard People.” Who, I would like to know, is willing to track this voter down and make him famous? Does he have anything to do with David Icke (referenced in this Wired story?) More about the serpent race, our overlords, here.

Video: Cloud Cult on climate change for the Weather Channel

(If the embed is groggy, the link is here. I am retarded. Well, either me or Vodpod.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

[mark wheat]

Video: Cloud Cult’s Esurance commercial

Minnesota localites Cloud Cult license their song, “Lucky Today,” to Esurance.

Video: Haley Bonar performs “May Day” at the Current studios

I don’t believe I posted this one when it went up a couple months ago. The drummer has a beard.

Off topic video: St. Paul smokestack demolished

Vodpod videos no longer available.