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8 Things I Miss About Living in the Twin Cities

Racket's ex-beer columnist gets blog-ily wistful from his new home in Maine.

Joe D via Flickr|

Is one of those blurred lights the author’s car, speeding back east? Unlikely.

Five months ago, my wife and I sold our gorgeous Victorian in Powderhorn, shoved all our earthly belongings into a moving truck, and moved our two kids from Minneapolis to Maine.

Arriving felt like a homecoming. We’re both originally from Massachusetts, so breathing sea air again felt like falling back into my childhood bed. Suddenly, we were driving through towns older than the United States and tramping up hills of granite—the type of things we had to leave behind when we moved to Minnesota in the fall of 2014.

But after nearly a decade in the Twin Cities, there is so much Minneapolis left in me that I can’t shake. Even though I’m happily back in New England, there are aspects of my former life that I yearn for. These are them.

The beer

I spent eight years as the City Pages/Racket beer columnist, and it gave me an abiding appreciation of the Minnesota beer scene. Even though I live in New England, arguably the best beer region in the U.S., it doesn’t feel as exciting as Minnesota was. The density of Twin Cities breweries creates a competition that just breeds creativity and (for the most part, anyway) weeds out subpar beer. 

Maine is often placed above Minnesota in national beer scene rankings, but that doesn’t take into account the abundance of options. Maine has around 165 breweries—Minnesota has over 200. I miss being biking distance from Eastlake and its constantly updating roster of sours, or hauling up to Utepils for a Vienna lager. I miss exploring the latest suburban brewery to open and being surprised by their seasonals. 

Running the lakes, creeks, and rivers

The entire time I lived in south Minneapolis, I didn’t miss the ocean. There is so much water around this state; Minnesota boasts more shoreline than California, Hawaii, and Florida—combined. At any moment, I was less than two miles from the Mississippi River, the Chain or Lakes, or Minnehaha Creek. The ocean is special in its own way, and I’m exalted to be living in the bray of seagulls again, though I do miss the ease, proximity, and variety of water that the Twin Cities offers.

In my final months as a Minnesotan, I was training for Grandma’s Marathon, so I was constantly on the banks of a lake, creek, or river. The energy it gave me was unmatched. I was in step with the lifeblood of the Twin Cities.

The State Fair

I’ve never felt a FOMO like I did over Labor Day weekend watching all my friends hit the Midway via Instagram stories. I’ve adored the State Fair since I first moved to Minnesota—a pure spectacle of beast, produce, and human gastronomy. When people wanted to come visit my family, I always suggested they fly over during the two weeks that the fairgrounds are flooded with llamas and Pronto Pups.

Because of COVID, I haven’t been to the fair in a few years, and my children never had the chance. The next time I return to Minnesota, it will be during the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Maybe even next summer, because I’m not sure I can survive another onslaught of selfies from the Miracle of Birth Center funneling in through my Google Pixel.

Curbside organic recycling

I had never composted before Minneapolis rolled out curbside organic recycling in 2015. But it seemed like a simple way to reduce waste without really even changing my habits. After eight years of composting, I’m a fanatic. Throwing out so much as a baby carrot feels weird. 

The fact that Minneapolis has such an intuitive, easy-to-uptake program is rare, and as I’ve learned, it saves a lot of the work. My new town has a composting program, but you have to bag up all your own food scraps, keep them around the house, and drag them off to the dump yourself. Invariably, the can is loaded with pink runoff and maggots. It was much easier when I could close the lid on a piece of municipal property and leave it for the trash man once a week. 

Central Time

Central Time is God’s own time zone. Perhaps the only happy medium in existence. Everything happens earlier, but not too early. Monday Night Football? Over at 10. Game of Thrones? I was laughing through the finale right after dinner. Moving out of the Midwest means I’m suffering through an extra hour of existence before all the cool shit happens. It’s been the most prolonged case of jetlag I’ve ever experienced.

Lilac season

For two weeks every spring, Minneapolis is the most fragrant city in America. Non-native to Minnesota, lilacs thrive here due to the long, frigid winters and hot blast of summer. And when their purple flowers bloom, their unmistakable scent fills every block. I had one planted by my back door, and every time I went to the garage, I’d be smacked in the face with perfume.

As soon as you get used to the phenomenon, it’s over. The petals wilt, the aroma vanishes. It’s a perfect metaphor for life in the North Star State—pleasant days are fleeting, but they’re magic when they’re here.

Asa's Bakery

When Asa’s Bakery opened in South Minneapolis in 2019, I fell in love because owner Asa Diebolt’s bagels and bialys reminded me of the food I grew up eating. Now that I live on the East Coast again, it feels like a false memory. Good bagels are just as scarce, and Asa’s has become a paradox. Now, I’m homesick for the whitefish salad on an everything bagel I got in the Midwest.

While there are so many great restaurants I could name-check as emblems of Minnesota’s nationally slept-on food scene, Asa’s is the only place that holds such a firm grip on my heart. I’ve yet to find an adequate replacement in my new home, and I doubt I ever will.

Broomball Wednesdays

In 2014, a friend from college asked me to join her boyfriend’s broomball team. The team was made up of medical students on rotation. They couldn’t field an eight-person team, and almost no one who was on the team had ever played the sport before. I hadn’t either, but I still said yes. I showed up in Merrell snow boots and a bike helmet and slipped around until I fell utterly in love.

I played every year up until the pandemic, and this last winter, my softball team spun off a squad on Wednesday nights in Van Cleve Park. By this point, I had real broomball shoes, my own stick, and some meager skills. I left all that in Minnesota, however. I’m not liable to find another place to play the sport or another climate to support it. But I’ll always remember the seasons I spent falling on my ass with my friends.

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