Issue 426

Twin Cities Staycation: There’s No Place Like Home

Arts, Entertainment, and More in the Twin Cities

I hate it when that happens!

Summer’s over, and the vacation you promised yourself in the Lake District (England, Italy, or, hey, Brainerd) failed to materialize, what with time and discretionary dollars in short supply this year.

So, curse your luck and suck your thumb. Or (clearly better), treat yourself to a stay-cation: no frequent flier miles, hotel reservation or language gap to cope with here at home. Instead, dedicate a weekend—or more, if you’re lucky—to exploring some less-familiar jewels of our Twin Cities, hiding in plain sight. We’ll set out a scavenger hunt based on your particular fascination. Feel free to mix and match.


You’re a culture vulture? Then you’re probably already on a first-name basis with Vincent and Claude at the (always free) Minneapolis Institute of Art. But how about the snazzy, Gehry-designed Weisman on the University campus? The Museum of Russian Art? Galleries lining 13th NE, St. Paul’s Lowertown, and the artists’ collective in Nordeast’s California Building?

Oh, you prefer your arts of the livelier sort, not on the wall, but also not off the budget? Try the Minnesota Orchestra’s rush line half an hour before the band strikes up. Take advantage of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s new policy of $5 tickets for first-timers (many locations). Or savor top musical talent in performances at MacPhail Center and the U of M’s Ferguson Hall (many free).

Be one of the first to invade the new Cowles Center for Dance, with a line-up of over two dozen troupes, or spy on the student talent at the West Bank’s Barbara Barker Center showcasing emerging choreographers.

Sure, the big G offers rush lines for its theater productions, but, chances are, you’ve been there, done that. This is your chance to experience the fun and funk of dozens (literally) of fringe-y acting troupes, where the material pushes the envelope, and you’re within inches of the stage at smaller venues such as Theatre Garage, Gremlin, Pillsbury House and more. Check to see what’s on and where. Many a company offers a pay-what-you-can-night to help your pocketbook. More theater discounts at

History hound? Betcha never toured our fab State Capitol (free), Then head to the nearby Minnesota History Center to fill in the blanks. Just down the road, see how the other half lived in the grand Hill House mansion of a former lumber baron. Across the river back in Minneapolis, trace your ancestors’ travails in the new land at the Mill City Museum—or, even earlier, at Fort Snelling.

Oh, you’re the outdoors type? Chances are, you’ve already enjoyed a Twins game at our new ballpark, so time to try some DIY athletics. Rent one of those lime popsicle bikes from one of the new stands scattered around the city and tour the chain of lakes and beyond. Rent a canoe. And new this season, rent a kayak to cruise the Mississippi, or even navigate it via a paddleboard (also new). Those guided tours include history and trivia info declaimed along the way. Rival Twin Cities Jogging Tours and City Running Tours companies offer themed jogging runs. Also new: foodie tours of our town via Taste Twin Cities Food Tours and also Twin Cities Food Tours (stroll and sample as you go).

Speaking of eats: This is the perfect excuse to venture to our towns’ rich stretches of storefront ethnic restaurants. With low, low prices, friendly service and new taste treats, what’s to lose? (Okay your waistline.) St. Paul’s University Avenue stretch approaching the State Capitol is especially rich in Asian flavors. Nordeast’s Central Avenue spans the globe from Latin to Moroccan, and Eat Street hosts a true U.N. of culinary treats. Even easier: a stop at Lake Street’s Global Market, which delivers on its promise and often hosts free live music, too. A bit more established, Lyn-Lake traces flavors from Greece to Japan, Italy to the Middle East and more. Lots more.

And here’s the best plan of all: Choose an unfamiliar neighborhood, park the car, and spend the afternoon exploring what it has to salute, in offering that showcase all of the above. Stroll down St. Paul’s Grand Avenue for grand shopping, eating, and listening. Hit 50th & France for everything from a day spa to cooking classes, with an indie movie and chic bars, cafes, and designer shops as a bonus. Sashay along East Hennepin to discover more of the same—spa, glam wear by local designers, offbeat eats.

See, Dorothy was right: There’s no place like home. To get started, find addresses and hours by visiting and

Big Gay News

UK Lifts Lifetime Gay Blood Ban
The BBC reports that England, Scotland, and Wales will lift their lifetime ban on gay men donating blood. Men will now be able to donate blood as long as they’ve not had sex with another man in the last 12 months. The ban was put in place during the 1980s in an attempt to prevent HIV transmission. The UK’s Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs has been reviewing the policy and found that advances in blood testing technology have rendered the lifetime ban unnecessary.

9th Circuit Blocks Arizona Law Limiting Same-Sex Partner Benefits
The Wall Street Journal reports that the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in September that an Arizona law passed in 2009, which eliminated health-insurance coverage for the same-sex partners of public employees, violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. The Court upheld a lower court’s injunction to keep the law from taking effect and said that, while the state wasn’t required to provide the benefits, it cannot deny the benefits to a specific group of employees.
Third Gay Utahn Attacked in Two Weeks
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the third gay man in less than two weeks has been brutally attacked in Utah. 32-year old Cameron Nelson was attacked and beaten by a group of people yelling anti-gay slurs one morning in September as he was emptying the trash in the alley of his workplace. Nelson suffered minor injuries and a broken nose. On August 26th, 20-year old Dane Hall was attacked by four men as he left a nightclub. The men repeatedly punched Hall and stomped on his head. He suffered a shattered cheekbone and lost six teeth. The third assault took place when a group of men broke into a gay man’s apartment and beat up his boyfriend.
Effort to Repeal Colorado’s Gay Marriage Ban Dropped
The Associated Press reports that an attempt to repeal Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban has been stopped by the college students who organized the effort. Mark Olmstead, who was behind the idea, said he would give up the attempt to collect the 86,000 signatures necessary to put the repeal on the 2012 ballot. Apparently, the repeal didn’t have the support of the state’s gay rights groups.

Harassment of Black Gay and Bisexual Men Tied to Anxiety
Health Day News reports that a new study from the University of Michigan shows that discrimination, harassment, and shame experienced by black gay and bisexual men contribute to depression and anxiety. 95% of the participants reported that they have been discriminated against or harassed because of their sexual orientation within the last year. The study was published in the latest issue of the journal Depression Research and Treatment.

Music: Kanye & Jay-Z, Barbra Streisand, Mason Jennings, & Natalia Kills

Kanye West and Jay-Z
Watch the Throne

Oh, the egos have definitely landed. The two biggest names in hip-hop – certainly in their own minds – collaborate on a mostly successful set of tunes that feature the strengths and weaknesses of both artists. Musically, the material often plays to West’s more adventurous side, with pulsing electronic rhythms merging with driving hip-hop beats. Even the occasional use of auto-tune is to artistic effect rather than a need to disguise flat singing. Considering the two’s standing in hip-hop, there’s a lot of bravado in these lyrics, and more than a few WTF? moments (a real West hallmark) to keep listeners constantly on their toes. No matter, highlights like advance single “H.A.M.” album opener “No Church in the Wild” or “Lift Off” (with Beyonce) make it worth the effort.

Barbra Streisand
What Matters Most

Streisand taps into the lyrics of good friends Alan and Marilyn Bergman for a double-disc collection, with the first drawing the most attention as it features 10 tracks she had not previously recorded. (Not to worry, “The Way We Were” fans, it’s on disc 2 of the deluxe edition). So, what do we learn from these 10 newly recorded songs? First off, even as she nears her 70th birthday, Streisand can still bring it vocally, with her natural power shining like a beacon throughout the set. The arrangements don’t get in the way of the vocals, taking a definite back seat, again, to what brought listeners to the party. Beyond that, it’s really a matter of the listener’s own interest in Bergman’s material that will bring them to the table.

Mason Jennings

Not surprisingly, Jennings opens up on his latest album, a largely solo effort that cuts across an amazing number of musical styles on its brief, nine-track run. Jennings has always been an open book about his emotions through his 15-year career, and this is no different, from the painful cry of “come home” on album opener “Bitter Heart” or the sense of the loss joy of youth on “Clutch.” The whole album has an instant vibe, as it is just Jennings sitting in some smoky bar with a slightly out-of-tune piano and a few friends tossing in accompaniment when needed. All of that merges beautifully on “Well of Love,” which features the playing of The Living Room, a musical conglomerate that provides a perfect homemade vibe for the song.

Natalia Kills

The young British filmmaker (birth name, Natalia Keery-Fisher) and singer sticks close to modern pop music on her debut disc, sounding more like Katy Perry, but (thankfully) bringing a bit of Lily Allen sass along for the ride. So, you probably know the drill– steady, driving electronic beats, heavily processed vocals, a guest vocalist or two (here, the Hologram himself, and a bright, shiny sound. The chipper sound grows stale pretty soon, though at least there is a bit of bite to the lyrics (see the I-don’t-want-to-marry “Kill My Boyfriend” for an example). Considering artists like Adele and Florence and the Machine are bringing a fresh British sound, it may be a case of coming to the party too late here for Natalia Kills.

Our First Date

Holyshit. Holyshit. Holyshit.

Here I am. In my car. Thirty minutes remaining. THIRTY!

I had to work late. It’s 6:00. I have to make it from Golden Valley to Uptown, shower, shave, style my hair, and take the dog out- all in 30 minutes. In rush hour traffic. And, shit, I have to pick up my damn dry cleaning.

Why did I say 6:30? Who the hell schedules a date at 6:30 on a Monday? A dumbass, that’s who. Yours truly.

Pause. Breathe, Justin. Breathe.

OK, boy, you got this. Breathe and chill the hell out. He’ll understand if you push it back, right? No. I’ve already cancelled on him twice. He probably already thinks I’m an asshole. He sure has every reason to. When have I ever sucked up my ego TWICE in a row after a guy’s cancelled on me? NEVER. That’s when.

Then again, he still wants to go on this date, right? So maybe he won’t mind if I push it back.

“heyy mister,” I’m texting, “pls dont hate me but im JUST getting off work. can we pls push dinner back till 8? promise im worth waiting for:)”

Pause. Hmm. No. I’m not sending it. I sound desperate. Right?

Re-draft text four times. Still not happy. You know what? Screw it. Let’s just make this happen. Dry cleaning can wait another day, right? It’s only been ready to pick up for a week.

No text. Especially after two cancelled dates. I owe it to this guy to be there when I promised I would.

He’s so cute, this guy. I’ve been begging for someone like him to come along for three years. Since…the first cut. Since…him. Ugh. No time to think about that now. Focus!

Think positive. Think about how great this date is going to be. I’m going to make it there on time. I’m going to apologize for how I look and say that I was… um… mauled by a pterodactyl. Yes. I was walking to my car and a giant dinosaur flew out of the sky, messed up my hair, and put stubble on my chin. No. I HAVE to shower. I have to look good for this guy. I want to impress him. I want him to want me.

Think positive. Envision the date going well. Envision it going perfectly. Envision…him kissing me on the cheek when he sees me and complimenting me on how cute I look. Think of him laughing at all my stupid jokes and being impressed with my affinity to sappy music (Kenny G or Josh Groban, anyone?). Pretend he’ll whisper sweet nothings in my ear afterward, kiss me good night, and ask to see me again.

Ah. Now that feels good. It feels romantic, tranquil, perfect. I already see us marrying. Maybe we’ll have kids. I don’t really like kids, but for him? Well, yes, of course. Because he’s exactly the man I’m building up in my mind. He has to be. It’s not like I ever hype someone up in my brain only to disappoint myself when I realize he’s a normal human being and not Superman (hint for those playing at home: yes, that’s sarcasm).

I’m like a little girl. A little girl sitting in a corner playing with her imagination, waiting for a Disney Prince to whisk her away. A little girl who doesn’t know how to strip away hope from expectation. When you expect everything, you’ll always be disappointed. Remember what Mama said: hope for the best and expect the worst. Have I got it backward?

He might not like me anyway. I am, after all (among other things), selfish, impatient, and trite. Not to mention superficial and vain. Nah, he probably wouldn’t like me. Maybe I should just cancel instead of going through all this stress.

No. Wait a minute. He invited me. And I can be pretty funny sometimes, right? I’m awful sweet, I know how to make Sloppy Joes, and I can cuddle real good. Maybe he will like me.

I got this. Fifteen minutes left? Easy. We are gonna make this work. Hallelujah, yes we will!

But first things first. I need to crank my car.

Keep in touch!

Ms. Behavior©: Post-Feminist Lesbian

Dear Ms. Behavior:

I am 24 and in a serious relationship with Myra, a 48-year-old traditionalist with 20th Century feminist views. I’ve tried to explain that I am a post-feminist lesbian living in the 21st Century, but she stares at me blankly. ??When we go out for the evening and I’m fully expressing my inner-man–dressed like a boy, packing a dildo, and basically passing–she freaks. When I feel and express my inner-woman, she is much more comfortable, but really that is only half the picture. ??Myra wants to know why I can’t just be regular and I tell her I am. Regular for my age group of queers who don’t feel hemmed in by gender oppressive conformity, like our older counterparts were. I am both male and female, and I have no problem outwardly expressing that binary. I don’t care what the gender oppressive world thinks. Clearly, though, Myra does care. Very much.??I’ve been thinking of taking testosterone and growing some hair on my face, but haven’t figured out how to tell Myra. It’s what I really want to do, and I know she’ll be upset, possibly to the point of ending it with me.??How can I break the news, without breaking the relationship???-Molly/Mark

Dear Molly/Mark:

Some women toyed with gender long before the word “lesbian” was popularized. A few decades ago, when butches purchased dark suits from the men’s department and smoked cigars, some carefully avoided revealing their female anatomy, even during sex. Consciousness Raising in the 70s eradicated roles modeled on heterosexual relationships and caused the ritual destruction of thousands of perfectly good sex toys. Hairiness first popularized by feminism and originally confined to underarms and legs still frightened conservative heterosexuals who’d never flown to Europe.

Until the last decade or so, female hormone-popping was limited to women with medical issues and female-to-male transsexuals. Now, garden-variety dykes cultivate goatees like gardens, without necessarily wanting to become men.

You and Myra are working out a primitive conflict. Myra could have found a like-minded partner by combing the Sapphic personals: “Serious bespectacled womyn seeks womyn for gluten-free muffins, native pronunciation of words like “Nicaragua,” and inoffensive clitoral stimulation once each solstice.”

And if you’d resolved your inner conflict about autonomy, perhaps you’d have chosen a partner with long sideburns packing an even longer silicone dick (or at least one who appreciates yours). Ideally, she’d prefer ritual body piercing to open-mike poetry fundraisers. But perhaps you wouldn’t have been attracted to her.

Mature love means supporting someone in becoming herself, rather than hoping she’ll become more like you. But no one can guarantee that you and Myra have that kind of love, or that Myra won’t dump you for your differences. There is really no best way to spin this for Myra. You can’t control her reaction to your plan, and as you know, not all dykes dig whiskers

Don’t be alarmed if Myra reacts to your hormonal news by recommitting to her food co-op, dusting off her old Alex Dobkin records –the best line from “Lavender Jane Loves Womyn” is “There’s no PENIS between us friends”– and auctioning handmade ponchos to raise money for plastic speculums, ensuring that no woman is ever denied the privilege of viewing her cervix (or tossing her salad).

Dear Ms. Behavior:

I’m sharing a beach house for the summer. The problem is that my housemate Jim, a casual friend, uses my personal items and eats my food, and then denies it.

I didn’t mind when it was just my peanut butter, but yesterday Jim ate the steak I bought for my dinner date. When I asked Jim, he said it wasn’t him, but he had steak in his teeth.

I’ve found Jim’s blondish hair in my comb and his body hair in my razor. He denies using them. But when I saw him naked yesterday, his balls were newly shaven. (He has a beard and doesn’t own a razor.)

I feel violated by Jim’s intrusive behavior. What can I do?


Dear Evan:

Install a knob on your bedroom door that you can lock with a key from the outside. Buy a small refrigerator for your bedroom, to keep your special date food safe. Everyone knows it’s tragic to have an unexpected filet mignon or caviar emergency when you’re preparing for a gentleman caller.

Keep your personal hygiene items locked up, including those that Jim has not yet used. If your razor is unavailable, he may develop a penchant for your toenail clippers or your nose spray. Also, stop looking at Jim’s balls.

Marcus, Is That You?

I love getting reader feedback. The only thing I love more than getting reader feedback is CRAZY reader feedback. Which is why I jumped for joy upon receiving the following voicemail after my recent column, asking people not to call Michele Bachmann an evil bitch. Here’s the message (with my responses interjected throughout):

Hi. Message is for Bradley. Bradley, I just read your column on Michele Bachmann. You do know that Wikiquotes, just like Wikipedia, can be edited; entered by anybody, whether the quote is actually factual, skewed, part factual, part incorrect. You do know that and you made no disclaimer at all on your column that that is part of what Wikiquotes is all about.


Yes, I do know that. I do. And each of the quotes I included is cited and attributed. In many cases, a simple Google search will provide you with the actual audio or video of her saying the things you’re concerned about.

As a very happy 30-something gay male, uh, I love Michele Bachmann.

First, I’ll assume from your early-50s-sounding voice that you had a cold. Second, look. I’ve wrapped my head around Jews for Jesus and I can theoretically accept the existence of gay Republicans, but gay Michele Bachmann lovers? Marcus, is that you?

The hate from the Left against her…it’s not based on anything factual. It’s all based on intangible, subjective items.

Yeah, like that whole “intangible, subjective” same-sex marriage constitutional amendment Michele and Liz Holberg tried to ram through the Minnesota state legislature in 2003. And again in 2005.

If someone would’ve told gay people back in the 70s that we want you to get married, they would’ve been ostracized. Rocks would’ve been thrown at them. They would’ve been laughed at.

Wait. You do realize if anyone was throwing rocks and laughing at gay people in the 70s, it probably was Michele Bachmann, right?

Um, it’s just unfortunate that you cannot present the facts the way they are and you haven’t.

Haven’t I? Which ones? My article asked people to stop calling Michele Bachmann an evil bitch. Are you saying people should call Michele Bachmann an evil bitch? I’m confused. Er.

And I could shoot you down in an editorial, week after week after week, but I have better things to do with my time.

Shoot away. If your writing is anything like your voicemail, I welcome the effort.

Um, I don’t know why you’re so afraid of Michele Bachmann. If she’s such a nonthreat, why is Lavender filled with so much hate for her.

Wait, when did I say I was afraid of her? I am on the record telling people not to fear her. When people react to her out of fear, they miss a huge opportunity to criticize her actual record and stated positions.

Maybe I’ll call you back in the future.

You did. The very next day.

Hi, Bradley. Message is for you. This is your conservative gay friend who likes Michele Bachmann.

Wait, “Likes?!” Yesterday, you said you LOVED her. Did you have a falling out?

I found an interesting statistic today in a UPI article. It said that U.S. Muslims are less liberal than the general public on societal acceptance of homosexuality. Forty-five percent say it should be discouraged by society. Discouraged.

What’s your point? A recent Pew Research poll also showed that 63% of U.S. evangelical Christians believe homosexuality should be discouraged by society. And I still don’t understand what any of this Muslim business has to do with asking people not to call Michele Bachmann an evil bitch.

Uh, it’d be nice if you put some balls behind your words and, let me guess that you won’t publish this because what’s Michele Bachmann gonna do to you? What are Catholics or Christians gonna do to you? Pray for you. If you publish anything anti-Muslim, you might lose your head or your dick.

I’m not going anywhere near your balls comment. For the record, I’ve never come across a story about a U.S. Muslim cutting the head or dick off a gay person.

I really hope you’ll consider writing a little less hatred and a little more proactive approach.

I really hope you’ll consider making more sense in your next voicemail. Or at the very least fess up to this whole thing being nothing more than a late-night, booze-induced prank call.

Bingo A Go Go 2011-12: The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

Bingo A Go Go’s 2011-2012 debut, High School Bingo, also marks the the partnership of Park House and the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus. Together they will continue the tradition of Bingo A Go Go’s money-raising efforts for the many worthy causes sponsored by these two organizations. Park House, explained Shannon Regan, Volunteer/Special Events Director and remaining reigning “Bingo Babe,” is a structured day health/mental health treatment program that provides nursing care, psychosocial therapies, nutrition and collaborative treatments with physicians, mental health professionals, and case managers. We exist to enhance the quality of life, maximize human dignity- -and promote the health, wellness, and independence of persons living with HIV/AIDS.”


Regan sees a bright future for the popular galas, but envisions no radical changes; “At the last game we had around 900 people. I believe we have been doing something right for the last 9 years and I don’t want to jinx it. The big change, of course, is that I won’t have the other Bingo Babe (Lee Haugee, formerly of Clare House, who recently stepped down) with me, instead, I’ll have 145 men…but who’s counting?”

It’s time to unpack your pom-poms and letter sweaters for the costume contest, with prizes, treats, and live entertainment featuring the durable Miss Richfield 1981, Barbie Q, and Gosh Alice Jones. Regan noted that the next–and as yet unnamed–Bingo will be next Spring.

Speaking for TCGMC, Jeff Heine, Executive Director, commented, “Park House has been a long-time friend of the Chorus. They’ve been very gracious in allowing us to have all-day rehearsals and board meetings at their facility, and we have always reciprocate by performing at their holiday functions and other events.

“Our mission,” continues Heine, “is ‘gay men building community through music,’ and I cannot think of a better way to build community than through this partnership with Park House. We’ll be bringing our own enthusiastic and supportive audience and a strong group of volunteers to the event…and maybe even a little GLEE. You’ll just have to show up to find out!”

Said Regan, “The Chorus provides truly remarkable outreach for the GLBT community. “By providing concerts everywhere from the rural areas of Minnesota to the deep south of the United States, the chorus has opened their arms in support for individuals facing the daily trials and tribulations of living in intolerant environments.”

“Their work is pivotal in exposing people to an alternate way of thinking than they might otherwise ascertain,” she continued, letting youngsters and others know that “things will get better; that there is hope for universal acceptance in this world.”

This season marks Dr. Stan Hill’s final season as Artistic Director of the Chorus, Heine reminded, hoping “to see all of you at Bingo A Go Go and at our concerts for our 31st season–any chance to see Stan one final time is one you don’t want to miss. We are both excited to be a part of Bingo A Go Go with Park House and being able to support the community through this new venture.”

At the Great Lakes Leather Alliance weekend A Picture is Worth…

Wow, have I taken a lot of photographs over the years! I never realized how many until I was asked to give a leather history presentation and started going through all my photos.

The presentation was part of the recent Great Lakes Leather Alliance (GLLA) weekend in Indianapolis, Indiana. A leather weekend in the heart of conservative Indiana? Yes, and in its tenth year, too. GLLA brought together members of the gay, lesbian, and pansexual leather/BDSM/fetish community primarily–but not exclusively–from the Great Lakes region. It was a jam-packed weekend with four concurrent leather contests and over 40 educational seminars. The seminar I presented was called “I Was There: A Photojournalistic Review of Leather History.”

To put that presentation together, I went through all the photos I’ve taken or collected since getting into leather in 1993. The cliché with photos is that most people have them crammed in a shoebox. My photo library fills three large boxes, the equivalent of 12 shoeboxes each. And those are just the ones taken using a film camera. (Remember film?) The more recent photos were taken digitally and occupy space only on my computer’s hard drive. But still, film and digital, there were lots of photos to go through, and lots of happy memories came back to me as I went through the photos. For the presentation I used about 350 photos that best told the story of the last eighteen years of the leather community as I saw and photographed them. The presentation included photos of club events, contests and titleholders, evenings at leather bars and bar events, and Leather Pride celebrations and parades through the years.

Some of these photos have been exhibited at the Leather Pride booth at the Twin Cities Pride festival or at other Minnesota Leather Pride events. Some of them will be included in a book I’m planning to publish. But right now, you can see a selection of photos from the presentation.

So, what’s a picture worth? A thousand words, and a ton of memories.

Snow White

“Hello mister, will you take me home?”

The smell of grease is thick in the air. A few friends and I are at a crisis nursery, making breakfast for kids who may not otherwise have one. We’re cooking turkey sausage, eggs, and fruit salad. The young girl posing the question, as tall as my knee, earlier told me her name was Snow White. She’s thin for her age. She’s looks at me with chilling despair. I hug her. I want nothing more than to rescue Snow White from her impoverished home life, but it’s not my place.

Here, I volunteer my time to cook and clean. I’m no psychologist, and I cannot promise Snow White that things will be better at home. That night, I’m trying to dance downtown, under a flood of house music. The hypnotic beats usually fill me. Not tonight. I head outside to the smokers. They’re always my retreat when I’m uncomfortable somewhere else. I can’t stand the smell or taste of cigarettes, but it always seems that smokers are more easy-going than their nonsmoking counterparts. More philosophical, perhaps.

“Want one?” a stranger offers me a Marlboro. His hair is greasy, his voice, masculine.

“No thanks.”

“What’s wrong?”

Conversations around us: someone’s gonna get some tonight, someone else’s car is broken down in Mankato, but it didn’t stop him from coming to the bar. Our conversation: Snow White. It made me feel oddly…grown-up…in a way.

“Look,” he says and lights another cigarette. He’s tall. I like him. “You’re feeling like a piece of shit for coming to the bar right now. But she’s just the tip of the iceberg. You seem to be doing your part. So buck up, tell her story, and celebrate what you’re thankful for.”

His response doesn’t help me. It sounds immature. As I wash my face after a distracted night out, I wonder about my darling Snow White. I think about what my smoker said. He’s right: It isn’t my burden to save the world, but, as a writer, it is my burden to help share it. A fun, fulfilling activity, volunteering helps save lives; it puts smiles on people’s faces; it gives others hope. And it’s one of the classiest things you can do.

Off the Eaten Path: The Lowry

The Lowry Serves Up Neighborhood Noshes for the Upper Crust Crowd.

This is not my first Blue Plate Restaurant Company write-up and, though I feel I’m required as a food writer (according to our secret food writer code) to eschew any restaurant that has any corporate leanings, I just can’t. So they’re like the Roman Empire of Twin Cities restaurateurs. So what? As the Romans sowed the seeds of imperialism, they brought sanitation, the alphabet, and really sexy centurion uniforms. The Blue Plate Restaurant Company, on the other hand, brings comfort food with a twist. Their 450 or so employees get the restaurant business, and best of all, they know how to turn a satisfied customer into a regular. Like mighty Caesar, they also have enough sense to let each satellite do some self-governing, and assimilate into in the culture of its own neighborhood–as in, fishnet-wearin’, tattooed servers in Uptown. Hail Caesar.

Their newest venture, The Lowry at 2112 Hennepin in Uptown, has brought together a casual foodie’s dream team, with Head Chef Dustin Pallansch (Strip Club) and Executive Chef Joan Ida (Tria, Goodfellows) in the kitchen, and Jeff Rogers (Town Talk Diner) at the bar. They also brought in some guy named Armando to do cocktail training, and the mixed drinks definitely were Armando-fabulous. The frothy Lane Zamprey ($8), for example, has subtlety and a depth that’s hard to find in a cocktail. A lengthy tap beer selection (we sipped the Harriet West Side) is another wise move on Blue Plate’s part. Microbrews are the new wine, after all, and one of their servers is already certified as a Level One Cicerone. Bottom line? Take your server’s advice when it comes to pairings–you’re going to want something fantastic to go with the food.

The Cheese Curds ($8) are definitely worth the caloric splurge, made with delicate curds from a Wisconsin farm, and served with a jalapeño blueberry ketchup for dipping. The breading is perfect and the sauce is sassy enough to thrill, but doesn’t overpower the cheese or overload your senses. Festive Deviled Eggs ($2 ea.) are next, trussed up with diced bacon, arugula, and garlic aioli. If you’re hung over, however, might I recommend instead the French Fry Poutine ($9). Yes, the Blue Plate folks do indeed understand the special needs of the Uptown customer, as opposed to, say, the clients who frequent the Highland Grill. Hot, salty French fries are smothered in braised beef, melted cheese curds and rich gravy. If that doesn’t cure what ails you, at least it helps you stop obsessing about things that are now out of your control. That’s part of the serenity prayer, right? If you’re not having a poutine kind of a day, The Lowry also sells oysters, both raw and Rockefeller.

Some restaurants with great apps sometimes struggle with ho-hum entrees. The Lowry’s entrees hold their own with the Crepes Pot-au-Feu ($13) as well as the Pork $15) and the Fish Tacos ($13). If you’ve never thought to put horseradish with a savory crepe, let this be your re-education. Braised beef, stew vegetables and light-as-air potato croquettes are given rare, but deserved diva treatment when wrapped in this delicate crepe. The pork was a little overdone for my liking, but its accompanying polenta, fried shallots and zesty San Marzano sauce were fantastic, and I do understand most diners are finicky about pork that’s anything less than well done.

The Fish Tacos, however, blew us away. Blackened tilapia, avocado, fresh salsa, Napa cabbage and a twist of lime juice made these the best fish tacos I’ve had, to the best of my memory, in the Twin Cities. Normally with a fish taco, halfway through, you end up regretting the choice not to go with beef, or at least chicken. These summery beauties, on the other hand, are worth coming back for again and again.

With our entrees, we sipped the Blood and Sand ($8), which uses orange juice, Cherry Heering and sweet vermouth to tart up its scotch base; and the Battle Cat ($8), a beer cocktail laced with vodka, Orange Curacao, and lemon juice that is surprisingly refreshing and all too drinkable. The Lowry is working on completing its official whiskey list, but anything from a Macallan to Death’s Door white whiskey is yours for the asking. The Death’s Door is downright tequila-y, and pops the salt in the crust of our velvety Banana Cheesecake. It may have been an accidental pairing, but happy accidents are my favorite kind.

The Lowry has an outdoor patio and is working on the parking situation. Currently, they offer free valet service after 6:00, but in the future, they may be working out a deal to let their customers park in the lot next door. I hope that deal goes through, because the adjacent giant empty parking lot certainly doesn’t give The Lowry the first impression that it’s due.

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