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“Fake Monkey!”

July 21, 2011

The Hamster and I have had our differences on this trip. Nothing out of the ordinary or unexpected, really: mainly just typical arguments about how much to spend on souvenirs, how often he has to smile for photos, how high to turn the air conditioning, and whether to drive half an hour out of our way to see the world’s largest strawberry.*

Mostly, though, we’ve really been great pals. We’ve become a pretty good team when it comes to unpacking and repacking the car to get in and out of hotels, and we’ve finally come to an understanding about car music, but that’s just the surface stuff; there’s much more to our emerging dynamic. The first few days of our trip was all about the destinations, and it was lots of fun. But we’ve evolved to the point where we’re enjoying each other’s company on a whole new level. We’re cracking each other up. We’re asking each other probing questions. We’re trusting each other’s judgment and yielding to each other’s wishes. We’re commiserating about the heat (99 degrees today, for the record). It almost doesn’t matter where we go next; we’re at a point where we’re just having fun being together, which is good considering that much of the next week or so will be spent in the relative wilderness of South Dakota and Montana.

This morning we packed up the car in record time even after being momentarily slowed by a scraggly 25-year-old pothead’s proselytizing to us as we left our seedy motel. About an hour later we watched as the Minneapolis skyline suddenly rose from the farmland of I35 like Emerald City rose above the poppy field.

[Barely related side note: in an odd trickle-down effect of Minnesota’s budget standoff, all highway rest stops in the state are currently closed. I’m glad to hear they’re finally settling this thing, because I really need to pee.]

Minutes later, we were already parked and on our way into Target Field for a Twins game. The ballpark is beautiful, with thoughtful touches everywhere you turn, and the game was a great one, with the Twins breaking a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning and holding on for the win. The heat was brutal and our seats–outstanding seats on any other day–were in full sun for the first six innings, but we managed to enjoy ourselves. I won’t bore you with a lengthy review of the stadium itself except to say that it easily wins the Biggest Improvement Over Previous Stadium award and that the number, placement, and utilization of  scoreboards is on a level above every other sports venue in America.

Despite Target Field being one of the three ballparks I had never visited, the game became as much about the experience as it was about the architecture. We sat, we sweated, we watched the game, we sweated, we talked, we spent lots of money on sodas and helmet sundaes, we sought shade, we savored breezes, we explored, we noticed ballpark features, we found a kosher hot dog stand, we ate hot dogs, we sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” we cheered, we laughed as the hero of the game got covered in surprise shaving cream, we left.

The plan was to follow up the game with a short walk over to the supposedly amazing sculpture garden outside the Walker Art Center. But I looked at the map and realized it was a bit further away than I had originally thought, and it was too hot for so much walking. So we skipped ahead and drove to a suburban supermarket to stock up on various food supplies that will hopefully last us until next Friday, when we arrive in Seattle and can once again find kosher food. At the supermarket we again worked as a team, figuring out rough menus, nixing each other’s choices, finding agreement, and jointly mocking the young couple who brought a professional photographer with them to shoot their three toddlers posing with produce.

The next stop was to check into our hotel, a Comfort Suites that got terrible reviews on Trip Advisor but was literally the only place in town with an available room for under $300. I was terrified about what we would find but the place turned out to be fantastic. The decor is horribly dated (circa 1984) but our suite is extremely roomy and even has a bidet, which has been alternately cracking Sam up and blowing his mind. (“Dad! We have a fountain in the bathroom! Come look!”) He also loved the hotel’s inexplicably ornate lobby, which includes both a restaurant and several nicely furnished seating areas:

You know what would be great? If you could spend all day there. You could eat breakfast, then sit, then eat lunch, then sit, and just look at how pretty everything is. Then you’d get bored of looking and go do something interesting.

But the highlight of our day was yet to come: the Torchlight Parade, the culminating event of the yearly weeklong Minneapolis Aquatennial festival. After eating dinner in our suite we walked a few blocks to the parade route, grabbed a few square feet of asphalt, and got a pretty good idea of what passes for entertainment in these parts.

I’d never actually been to a real parade with floats before, and this one was both better and worse than I expected. Despite going through the heart of downtown Minneapolis it had an oddly small-town feel. Most of the floats were sponsored by other upcoming festivals and were ridden by gowned and tiaraed teenagers in full robo-wave. The one featured in the below video was by far the strangest–six preteens (including two awkward boys) dancing enthusiastically and semichoreographedly to a Justin Bieber song while a 40-something woman in a gown waves from the inside of what looks like a well-lit, giant baked potato:

In between floats there were some mediocre high school marching bands, local radio station SUVs with employees handing out logoed giveaways, energy-company/parade-sponsor employees, and the occasional highly entertaining performance from, say, a group of clowns pretending to be a marching band, a breakdancing troupe, a drum corps unaffiliated with any school, or the Twin Cities Unicycle Club. I’m serious–those four groups were easily the best performers of the night.

It was a fun night–at least until about halfway through, when the mother of the kid sitting next to me gave him money to buy a vuvuzela from the souvenir guy. The kid immediately began blowing that horn so incessantly that for the next hour I fantasized about grabbing it from him and shoving it so far up his ass that every time he farted his mother would think she’s at the 2010 World Cup. I mentioned this fantasy to the Hamster, who laughed so hard for so long that I thought I was going to have to carry him home.

I took a million pictures and several short bits of video, but I’ll share just one more: it’s a clip of the unicycle club doing some cool tricks but it’s extra entertaining due to the way Sam heckles the unicycle-riding monkey for the first 30 seconds of the video. Yes, you read that correctly. Enjoy.

He was right, by the way: it was indeed a fake monkey. 

*As per Sam’s decision, we did not go see the giant strawberry.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2011 9:16 am

    A beautiful roundup of my hometown. The NYer’s take on Midwestern summer PhunPhests was precious, as was “trickle-down effect” with regard to the closure of rest areas in the Gopher State.

  2. July 21, 2011 11:19 am

    I too laughed at the farting vuvuzela line, as well as Sam’s “Fake monkey” cries…thanks for keeping up entertained and amazed at your travels.

  3. Yehuda and Esther permalink
    July 21, 2011 11:29 am

    The Beiber clip was truly horrific, though the fake monkey was awesome.
    Enjoy Montana, from what I’m reading in Jared Diamond’s book ‘Collapse’ it supposed to be one of the most beautiful areas in the world. You have to go fly fishing when your there.

  4. July 21, 2011 2:12 pm

    The Trips wanted to know why they were blowing the shofar during the Unicycle routine. The “honking” was cracking us up. How did you sit through it for the whole night?

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