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You Asked Racket, We Answered: Vol. 1

Welcome to the first edition of Ask Racket. Is it worthwhile? YOU decide!

This is the No. 4 bus, taking a wild-ass turn.
Metro Transit

A couple weeks back, we launched a new monthly feature: “Ask Racket.” Our hope was that readers would bombard us with trivial questions, providing us riffy fodder to bullshit about. 

Then, something incredible happened: Y’all supplied us with about a dozen incredible ideas for actual stories. To answer these questions will require tricks of the trade like “reporting” and “research,” but we’re extremely appreciative—look for answers to those questions in the weeks to come. 

In the meantime, enjoy these much simpler prompts and barely thought-through responses. And please, we beg of you: Sound off in the comments!

What Are The Best Bus Routes?

Keith

I ride the bus less than I should. (I’ll spare you my boring but not entirely unjustified excuses why.) But whenever I’ve had a reason to take the southbound 5 out of downtown it has been a party. One time a woman on the back of the bus rapped the entirety of Nicki Minaj’s verse from Big Sean’s “A$$” (you know—“Somebody point me to the best ass-eater,” “Kiss my ass and my anus, ’cause it’s finally famous,” and so on) and afterward everyone cheered. I’m sure if this route was my daily commute shit like this would make me want to jump from a moving bus, but as a change of pace, it was a good time.

Em

Gonna guess Jessica will have the same answer as me here—we used to be neighbors!—but it’s the 18 all the way. Can’t beat it for reliability or for rider antics IMO. Jess has all the best stories though.

Jessica 

I haven’t had a car for a couple of years now. So I am pretty familiar with MetroTransit’s offerings. My favorite route, however, is the 18. Yes, it’s convenient for me because of where I live and where I often need to go, but I really love it for its wacky vibe. It’s a consistently busy bus that is filled with all walks of life: giggly teenagers, parents with huge strollers, openly drunk people, people trying to get their shit together, and lots of people on their way to work, whether that’s bartending, an office gig, or busking. 

A few of my favorite 18 memories:

A guy sitting behind me loudly chatting with his friend on his cell phone about “getting a major come up,” then proceeding to use Siri to Google “jewel heists”

A lady who had brought a dozen or so helium-filled balloons on the bus. She was sitting in the very first seat, and the balloons were basically covering the entrance to the seating area. So everyone who got on the bus had to confusedly swat away a sea of balloons after paying in order to sit down.

The time an entire classroom of kids got on the bus and a lady scolded me for their behavior and for allowing them to stand behind me at the back exit door spot. I had to explain to her that I was not a teacher and had no idea who these kids are. She only kind of believed me.

The time I was on a super crowded 18. At a stop, some clean cut, sporty, probably 20-something dude saw his mom in a parking lot. “Hey, you guys, do you want to ride with my mom?” he shouted to his friends, who were spread out on the bus. The group that got off with him: a crust punk dude who looked like he was pushing 40, a suuuuuper old-looking guy in a white tank top and an American flag bandana wrapped around his head, and a young lady in a pretty dress. That’s gotta be a bartender, delivery dude, line cook, and hostess, right?

Jay

I’ve not taken the bus since the new coronavirus dropped, though I always had a soft spot for the 21. If you’re in a hurry, it’s a bad bet: The thing crawls West to East, a start-stop journey through the heart of the city. You begin in Uptown (where Racket recently spent 24 hours), cruise through Midtown and East Lake, and cross the river for the home stretch into downtown St. Paul. The 21 provides a leisurely urban tour, one that showcases the singular neighborhoods, shops, and demographics that make the cities great. Fun personal anecdote: As a teen, I once time-traveled the length of the route, using this neat sci-fi hack known as “passing out on Olde English and having the driver wake you up in St. Paul.” The future is here! 

How Tall Are You? 

Keith

I am, according to my driver’s license, 5’ 6”, but let me tell you something about driver’s licenses: You can write whatever height you want on that form. You think they care? OK, maybe if I added six inches to my height they’d get suspicious. But a half an inch? Nah. I’m closer to 5’5” if I’m being honest (though why would I be if no one’s checking?) and for over 30 years now I have been a 5’6” driver. (Also, If I’ve ever been able to guess my weight within ten pounds, I’d be amazed.) (Oh also, if for some reason this is illegal, this paragraph has been merely an embellishment for entertainment purposes, officer.)

Anyway, being a shorter person is, in one sense, good, because, seriously, what’s the point of being tall? Any height beyond six feet and you’re just an excess human, like a person born with two appendixes or something. I’ve never wanted to be taller. I am sturdy and compact, which is a good way to be and to live. The only drawback to being short is other people. People are less respectful of our space in crowds. We had a mean (incredibly catchy) Randy Newman song written about us. It is for some reason absolutely acceptable to make derogatory generalizations about the personalities of short men.

And of course, it can be, for, er, let’s say… courtship and mating purposes, a detriment for a heterosexual male to be appropriate-sized, as I am. Now, I can’t be angry that some people mistake socialized norms as their own individual tastes. When a woman lists height requirements on a dating app, do I spitefully wish for her to die alone? Of course not, that would be petty and I’m not a monster. The heart wants what it (is told that it) wants. I simply want her to live unhappily with a 6’ 5” husband.

Jay

At 6’2”, I’m the tallest of the four Racket co-owners. What does this mean? To hear my colleague Keith tell it, I’m two inches of “excess human,” a certifiably cancellable declaration in today’s body-pos climate. But I won’t cancel Keith. No, not today at least. 

I love being tall, but I’ll extend Keith this olive branch: When he boasts about being “short and sturdy,” I’m reminded of my own coordination limitations. I’ve got this theory—and I’d love any readers with experience in biology and/or kinetics or whatever to weigh in—that when the human body grows real fast and tall, that limbs become unwieldy; the mind simply can’t keep up, resulting in a lifetime of flailing and stumbling. But when it comes to reaching for stuff? Ooo, baby, it doesn’t get any better. Also your Twitter takes about tall people ruining concerts don’t phase us one bit—we’re gonna keep standing with our large, dumb bodies. 

I’m a little surprised that someone seized on my filler prompt about asking us our heights. That said, talkin’ height is a Top 5 interesting item. I dare you to find a more compelling website than CelebHeights.com. (CelebrityNetWorth.com specializes in another Top 5 all-time interesting item.) If Racket ever gets real hard up for cash, you can expect posts like “Dessa is HOW Tall?” and “Kris Lindahl’s Height Might Just Surprise You.” …OK, we’ll bite: Dessa, “in her highest kicks, is purportedly also 6’2”!

​​Em

I clock in at a very respectable five feet, nine inches. It’s a funny height: tall for a woman on the East Coast where I grew up—tall enough that if you go to a show you can see the stage from wherever you’re standing—but kinda average for a woman in the Midwest? (I have a theory too, and it’s about the relationship between adult height and whether or not you spent your childhood in dairy country sucking down skeleton-building calcium.) 

The thing is, all average-tall adult women were once freakishly tall girl children, which no doubt contributed to my years of being “fine” at sports and truly horrible at making friends. There’s this really formative childhood memory I have of being at a Philadelphia 76ers game with my dad and his friends. We were watching Dikembe Mutombo dunk all over everybody when I looked up, doe-eyed, and said, “I want to be as tall as Dikembe Mutombo someday.” To which my dad laughed loudly and replied: “No, you don’t.” I was like, “I’ll show him, I’ll be a totally normal 7’2” woman someday.”

Anyway he was right. 7’2” is much too tall for a writer, and 5’9” girls are already taller than 5’9” guys.

Jessica

I’m 5’8’, which is the mildly above average end of the tall woman spectrum. But when I hit that height at 11 years old? I was a monster! I towered over my classmates. 

“Don’t worry, boys will eventually catch up with you,” adults would gently tell me. But I didn’t care about that at all. I wanted to be a giant forever. In gym class, I could take people out with my sheer size or protect my tiny friends from bullies. I walked faster; kids had to speed-walk to keep up with me. I was actually too big for my elementary school playground. I was never teased by my classmates because, dude, I was in on the joke.

Sadly, I wouldn’t be “tall” forever. When I returned for sixth grade after summer break, many of my female peers were now just as tall as me, and a handful had even surpassed my modest height. While most boys wouldn’t really start “catching up” to me until sophomore year, this was the end of my year of being tall.

Who Has the Best Pancakes? 

Keith 

I’m honestly more of a biscuits and gravy man myself, though I’m not some kind of extremist anti-sweet freak like E* C***** (see below). The main reason I don’t indulge in pancakes is because they don’t stick with me—one dang egg will keep me sated till dinner, but I could eat a pancake every hour on the hour for the rest of my life and still be hungry. And so, boringly, I’ll echo Al’s and Maria’s, while taking a moment to mourn the fried chicken and pancakes at Grand Catch, which no longer serves brunch. And I’m such a sucker for a fancy novelty that I’m still eager to try the soufflé pancakes at Thirty-Six Cafe. Is this a very long, roundabout way of saying I’m no help at all on this question? Yes. Yes, it is.

Jay

Look, I love Al’s. I’d probably enjoy some high-falutin (high fa-gluten?) flapjack that costs $20 in the North Loop. But let’s be real: The Tremendous 12 at Perkins is the world’s best breakfast, and the gargantuan pancakes with whipped butter and syrup flights do the heavy lifting. For me, this one is deeply tied to nostalgia; my dad would occasionally take me to Perkins—either the one on Nicollet (RIP) or the “fancy” Edina one (soon-to-be RIP)—before work and school for a classic father-son breakfast feast. (Quick aside: I once interviewed a longtime waitress at the Edina location who had just served none other than John Travolta—how ‘bout that?) 

I was heartened to see, in this age of health-consciousness, that the T-12 continues to exist, meaning diners can still scaf 1270-1660 calories via its three eggs, four buttermilk pancakes, choice of potato, and four sausage links or bacon strips. The $12 price tag, however, feels about doubled from my childhood, but that’s inflation or the supply chain or something for ya. 

Em

I… really do not care about pancakes. Just don’t. Someone in the comments is going to be like “But, but, but—Maria’s!” And I’m sure they’re fine. I promise I’m never going to order them. 

Overall I’m just more of a savory bitch. Don’t love syrup. Almost never eat fruit, which I’m sure a doctor would tell me is completely fine if I ever went to one. Each time my partner suggests pancakes for breakfast I kick and scream and threaten to leave him. Pans should not be used for cakes, they should be used for eggs and bacon and sausage and potatoes swimming in salt and pepper and grease. 

To answer the question I’ll shout out the last place I had a pancake: the Swedish Inn in Lindstrom. My friend got an order of their skinny little Swedish pancakes for the table and I heroically took exactly two bites.

Jessica

I never make pancakes at home, so flapjacks at a restaurant are kinda a treat food for me when the mood strikes. A few of my favorites:

Granola pancakes at Bryant-Lake Bowl: I will often order one of these, plop it in the middle of my table, and share with my friends. One pancake between three people after eating eggs and biscuits is kinda like making it to dessert in the morning.

Corn pancakes at Maria’s: Naturally sweet and fluffy.

Lemon-ricotta hotcakes at Hell’s Kitchen: Can pancakes be creamy? These babies are. 

How can I “Ask Racket,” you ask? Well, you just did! But there’s a more formal process too. First, you have to subscribe, which, really,  why wouldn’t you anyway? Then, you’ll eagerly scan your inbox for a periodic email from Racket inviting your questions. Then maybe we’ll answer them. It’s that simple! (And yet it took us so many words to explain it.)