There is little to add from your humble editorial staff that will bring additional clarity to a community—not to mention a country—reeling in the aftermath. We stand by the notion that the truth, to the extent we mortals can know it, is round. Our best advice: beware anyone with a corner on the truth because there isn’t one. Beware too of haters, even those who “hate” haters. Yesterday Pope Francis reminded us all that “It is not power defined by this world but the Love of God, Love capable of encountering and healing all things.” Even the most secular of us humanists can find hope in love.
We caught a bit of reader flack for our first ever political endorsement, but it looks like we didn’t exactly tip the election scales in the Paulsen-Bonoff race. If you want to see why we were so sold on Terri, take a look at her post-election letter to voters on her campaign web page. Pure class. [link]
Distraction – Dat Traction
There are so many wonderful theatrical and musical happenings this holiday season it will be hard for anyone not to find a vehicle to get lost in. It almost seems like a civic duty to list a few to get you started.
- “Lion in Winter,” Guthrie Theater, now through December 31. Some among you may remember the marvelous movie treatment of James Goldman’s vicious comedy of manners that started Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn. Director Kevin Moriarty has ramped up the intensity and unleashed a remarkable cast on this 12th Century yuletide tale featuring the Plantagenets, a dysfunctional family of royal proportion. “Well, what shall we hang? The holly or each other?” Kevyn Morrow captures the true spirit of the besieged Henry II and we are betting that audiences will see the launching of a stellar career in the person of David Pegram who plays Phillip II, one of Henry’s bratty sons. [link]
- The Lab Theater is hosting two swell distraction style productions this December. “What Fools These Mortals Be” is the brainchild of Kevin Kling and the Interact Center. The master storyteller leads a cast, 50 strong, in an evening of theater, humor and over-the-top foolishness. “Fools” features original music by Ivey winner Aaron Gabriel. Get tickets @ www.brownpapertickets.com.
- If your favorite distractions lean towards the bawdy then “Visions of Sugarplums, a Burlesque Nutcracker,” back for a third season, dazzles with an array of moving arts from classical dance to Broadway-style ensemble dances. It’s sure to be an event to warm the coldest of cockles, of hearts of course. www.showclix.com.
- If it’s music that heals your soul the folks at the Dakota Jazz Club have loaded the December calendar with lots of good stuff. Let us point you to two of our personal favorites. On December 9 George Maurer, celebrated composer, collaborator and pianist extraordinaire, brings his holiday ensemble to the stage. If you haven’t seen George lead this all-star cast it is a holiday tradition worth starting. For your Online staff The Peterson Family is the musical kickoff each season. Each one of Jeanne (Arland) and Willie Peterson’s offspring has made it into the musical big time and for many years they have taken advantage of the holiday season to work Peterson magic together. On Sunday, December 18, there will be two shows. FFI www.DakotaCooks.com.
Classified Ad Department
Neerland & Oyaas, Inc. is in search of a sole practitioner type professional interested in sharing space in our unique and impressive world headquarters. There is approximately 300 square feet of individual space plus conference area and modest kitchen to share. Not only does this provide an interesting peek behind the N&O tomfoolery and skullduggery, but there is ample opportunity to enlist the contract services of Marsha Wagner and her CastleVisions network for office and meeting support services. If you are interested in riding the wave that is the North Loop we are in Suite 107 of the Union Square Building, 333 North Washington. Shoot Mark an email (Mark@Neerland.Oyaas.com) or call 612-338-0050.
A Shout and a Tout this Election
Since Online began publishing we have steered clear of actually promoting candidates for elected office. A not-so-careful review of the archives brings us to believe this may be a first. Whether or not it is, this is special. We first got to know Terri Bonoff when Sean Oyaas, a former N&O intern from back in the ballpark days, went to work for her at the Legislature. “You guys, I think Terri really is different. She has a plan to work with industry across the state to better match post-secondary training with their needs. Terri drives the special interests–and sometimes Majority Leader Bakk–nuts, voting no on close votes and wedging herself onto conference committees to improve bills.” The training plan did come together. The Pipeline is a partnership with business, through the State Chamber and MNSCU. Students have successfully been placed in good jobs with manufacturing, tech and medical employers across the state. This is one shining example of a stellar track record of accomplishment, made possible by someone willing to do the heavy bi-partisan lifting that comes at our State Capitol.
This Sean guy, with Terri’s encouragement, left her office and accepted a position of CEO in training at Cargill, a Minnetonka based Food Company of some sort. Last spring he announced that Terri was being recruited by Democratic leaders at the State and National levels to run for Congress in the Third District. Their assessment was that the incumbent, Erik Paulsen, has been running on the fumes of good will put in place by his two moderate GOP predecessors, Jim Ramstad and Bill Frenzel. President Obama carried that district twice; the voters there rejected the constitutional amendment on same sex marriage. The incumbent has been operating in the shadows cast by a reputation of a “nice guy.” He has voted several times this year to defund Planned Parenthood, delaying Zika research and the budget itself. He gets A’s from the NRA, holding firm to their direction while kooks continue to shoot cops and kids across the country. Almost simultaneously, Terri was in Saint Paul authoring the Freedom to Marry Bill while the incumbent was receiving an award for his work to get a same sex ban in the United States Constitution. The conversation went like this:
Concerned Parent (CP): Doesn’t Paulsen have a huge war chest?
True Believing Kid (TBK): Terri can raise the money she needs to make her case.
CP: Ok, active pro life legislator, pro gun, a nothing on climate change but he’s a nice guy.
TBK: He is so nice he can’t say no to Trump.
CP: What about the CEO in Training job?
TBK: D-Mac is young, they’ll find somebody else. If Terri’s in I am joining the battle. She is exactly the kind of person, down to her soul, that Congress needs.
So here we are election eve and so much has transpired in such a short period of time. Terri has raised the money. She has made the case that her adult life is a positive track record of stepping up, as a woman in business, as a Mom of four great kids, as a legislator with considerable bi-partisan accomplishment. As a candidate Terri has won by “uniting the middle” in an arguably GOP-leaning senate district. She dusted Congressman Paulsen so thoroughly in a debate last spring that he has eschewed all but one other opportunity, in the cozy confines of KSTP-TV, owned of course by Stan Hubbard, a double max contributor to the incumbent.
Some voters believing a Clinton Presidency is inevitable will vote GOP down the ballot for “balance.” The state of affairs in DC over the last eight years is that balance means doing little or nothing. Representative Paulsen spends an inordinate amount of time trying to turn back the clock and that gets us nothing but gridlock. Terri Bonoff will step up and work for progress, in education, fixing what needs to be desperately fixed with Obama care and, as she has always done, remembering who pays the bills and protecting their interests. If you are in the district or have undecided friends who are, please consider sending Terri Bonoff to Washington, and with luck she will take TBK with her.
Life Goes On
So in a couple days at least the firestorm of campaign commercials will have been doused and the winners and losers will get back to trying to govern, or not govern depending on philosophy, and we can all get back to the business of doing the more manageable things that actually make a difference. We want to share two great opportunities.
- First, on Wednesday, November 9, there will be a fundraiser benefiting the Luminarias, a Twin Cities based non-profit organization dedicated to helping adolescent Guatemalan girls break the cycle of poverty through housing, education and youth development. They empower girls to re-imagine their futures and become the women they aspire to be. From its residential home in San Lucas Sacatepequez, girls flourish in a nurturing environment where they talk, laugh, reflect and grow every day. They play in an orchestra, compete in soccer games, take karate lessons, and forge lasting friendships. Additionally there is guidance to help the girls involved enroll in the best local middle and high schools to advance their secondary education. Upon graduation, most girls return to their communities and enroll in University with continued financial support. The girls that graduate learn to gain independence by reintegrating with their communities, and they make room for new girls to enter the program. The event will be at the Summit Brewing Company, 910 Montreal Circle in Saint Paul. You can learn more at http://www.luminariasproject.com/ and buy tickets though Eventbrite or the Luminarias Facebook site.
- MEDA is celebrating its Sapphire Anniversary in conjunction with its annual Black Tie Ball on Saturday, November 19, at the Depot in Downtown Minneapolis. We are long enough in the tooth to go back to MEDA’s earliest days and are proud to celebrate the success that MEDA has brought to many minority businesses, some directly in the N&O network. MEDA is a nonprofit organization that helps minority entrepreneurs grow their businesses so that they can become stable, long-term employers with adequate capital planning, growth strategies and solid infrastructures. This event annually is considered one of the premier networking events and they always “WOW” when it comes to silent and live auction items. FFY www.meda.net.
A Cozy Read by the Fire
Longtime Online reader and really longtime friend of the family Patrick Delaney had his first work of fiction, Odd Jobs, published this summer. By the time we got around to grabbing a copy it was too late for our summer reading issue but that may be a bit of a blessing. We were able to give this collection of connected fictional stories a more careful read and do Pat and potential readers a bit more justice. Odd Jobs offers glimpses into the many experiences young people gain during breaks in schooling to earn money for expenses and beer (in our case beer and other expenses). These are jobs that teach you hard work and give you real life glimpses into what it takes to keep a business going. Often these jobs provide young people the motivation to move on and finish their degrees.
Delaney is a retired lawyer who while practicing was both well known and highly regarded for his legal writing skills. He has successfully transferred that to fiction, if not fictionalized real life. It is fair to say that you will find shared, almost universal experiences and recognize many of the characters from your own Odd Job days.
The easiest way to buy a copy is through Amazon, Odd Jobs by Patrick Delaney.
Happy Trails to a Middle-of-the-Road Trailblazer
If you didn’t get the chance to read Jon Tevlin’s salute to outgoing Hennepin County Commissioner Randy Johnson, here is a link. It does provide us with an opportunity to share his comments about Wheelock Whitney, 2016 Firecracker of the Year, sent a few issues ago:
Great choice! Wheelock hired me in 1962 when I was in high school and he started his 1964 US Senate campaign. It was my first paid job. (Years later, I recalled that he paid me $25 per month and he was sure it was $25 per week!) I was the ultimate go-fer. We had several campaign offices, but little remembered by anyone is the six months we were in the basement of Wy Spano’s father’s medical clinic on University Avenue (little known Minnesota political factoid). Wy was the campaign media person and Dan Cohen was the researcher and speech writer.
The campaign put me in charge of the Republican Convention endorsement demonstration–heady stuff for a 17 year old. We handed out “Whistles for Whitney” and I gave one to Polly, bought her a hamburger, asked her out, and we got married a few years later. (Now, she is a self-proclaimed liberal Democrat…I think that is progress).
At Wheelock’s memorial service, we talked with Kathleen. Politics have sure changed since the 1960s days of the (mostly) Republican Young Turks: Whitney, Andersen, Quie, Forsythes, Blatz, Head, Pillsbury, Frenzel, Durenberger, Yngve, Popham, Flakne, Schwarzkoph, Janes, Provo, etc. As I looked over the group at Wayzata Community Church, I realized that I am probably the last elected official in that tradition. I don’t think there is a book there, but perhaps a retrospective for your newsletter.
Randy is leaving a well-earned legacy of public services, as in service to the public. Some day we will share a few tales from “Randy’s Hood” of our own but we’ll let Commissioner Johnson say goodbye in his own words.
Eyes on the Street
For the record—meaning between you and us, Dear Reader—it is the official editorial policy of Online that there is no such thing as “the good old days.” We are not here to make the Twin Cities great again, although we are committed to saving them from succumbing to that stupid generic term “North.” That said, we have noticed a disturbing trend in human behavior that diminishes our collective character: lack of eye contact. Once upon a time it was actually unusual for folks in these parts to not catch the eye of a passerby and greet them with a smile and a nod. This is not ancient history; as recently as the millennium, at the height of popularity of the TV show “Friends” it was common to accompany the nod with a Joey Tribbiani-inspired “How you doin’?” These days averting the eyes is the community standard. People who ought to be present, like the cops and hotel doormen, are always quick to look away and ignore a friendly nod. Taken transit lately? More than half of our downtown coworkers do, and not a damn one looks up from the iPhone when walking up to the stop. Something is happening here; what it is ain’t exactly clear. Suspicion leads to a feeling of powerlessness which often morphs into fear. Anger rises to the fore as a defense mechanism. Heightened anger leads to illogical violence, which in some significant way underscores the street mayhem, including gun violence we are experiencing in the 612. Our modest proposal is that we all redouble our efforts to be friendly first. It could start with the public’s representatives on the street, the police and in Minneapolis, the DID ambassadors who have really slipped in this regard. The rest of us can pick up from their fresh start lest falling down the livability scale is what we are striving for.
Shootout at the Downtown Corral
The Minneapolis Downtown entertainment district has been on high alert since scores of shots were fired and six people were wounded in the early morning hours of September 12, 2015. A year later this same neighborhood has experienced a spate of Sunday night shootings four weeks in a row. To date concerned citizens, business leaders and residents alike have been treated with the incredulous response “what should we do?” when they appeal to City Hall. It’s a head scratcher. Our city leaders sought election/appointment because they represented that they were up to the task of governance, which means at some basic level keeping the peace. Stakeholders have repeatedly begged to stop closing streets on busy evenings; it gives the hoodlums a safe spot to marshal and wreak havoc. These same stakeholders have beseeched authorities to send those with no obvious reason for lurking in the shadows, especially minors, back from whence they came. There are claims that there are more police but the policing has not changed. The stakeholders would concede that perhaps their suggestions are impossible to implement, but if pushed they would request that city leaders concede doing the same things over and over have not yielded different results.
Monday came the pronouncement from City Hall that help is on the way in the form of—you guessed it—more cops in the next budget. There is also a plan to “call in” high risk offenders to give them an opportunity to redirect their lives. Again, not longing for the good old days, but they used to call that probation, a program operated by counties with state and county tax dollar support. We trust that those crafting this initiative are coordinating with their county partners.
Your editors were particularly sorry to learn that the most recent gunfire left bullet holes in the windows of American Uniform/Army-Navy Surplus (Jump wings) on Fourth Street and First Avenue North. Since the end of World War II the Brill family has been an important contributor to the vitality of downtown, as a retail destination and as the proverbial shopkeeper with eyes on the street. Nobody deserves their storefronts riddled by bullets but nobody deserves it less than Toby Brill. This is a shame.
It certainly is the season and we have heard from several candidates and campaigns requesting that we forward the following dates and details of fundraising receptions on behalf of their campaigns.
- Mike Opat Volunteer Committee is holding an event on October 5 from 4:30 to 7:00 pm at Travail/Rookery, 4124 West Broadway in Robbinsdale. Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith are featured hosts. Open donation.
- That same evening, October 5, Greene for Hennepin County will have an event benefitting Marion Greene’s campaign fund at the home of Tom Hoch and Mark Addicks, 2100 James Avenue South, Minneapolis. There are several dozen hosts listed, too many to mention, but all very interesting and worth meeting. This event begins at 5:30 and is posted to 7:00 pm. Drive time from Robbinsdale to East Isles makes a twofer a possibility.
- Terri Bonoff supporters are beginning their October Fundraising Push in earnest on October 10 from 5:00 to 7:00 pm in the warmly renovated Ford Center. The eyes of the nation—at least the eyes interested in the fate of the House of Representatives—are on this race which pits moderate State Senator Bonoff against a heretofore under-challenged incumbent, Erik Paulsen. Said incumbent has painted his challenger as a typical tax-and-spend DFLer citing Bonoff’s unapologetic vote for raising the gas tax after the I35W Bridge collapsed. Bonoff maintains that the current Congressman is out of sync with the majority in the Third District, pointing out his A-rating from the NRA, opposition to Freedom to Marry, and numerous votes to defund Planned Parenthood which have bogged down both Zika funding and important budget votes. Rather than a bevy of hosts Bonoff’s team has accepted the gracious offer by Twin Cities musical legend Tom Lieberman (Rio Nido, Tommy & the Liebermen) to entertain the throng. There will be a live auction of the white shoes used in the Bonoff “step up” commercial and Tonka toy door prizes as well.
- The same Ford Center location, 420 North Fifth Street, will be the spot of a breakfast reception on behalf of Hennepin County Board Chair Jan Callison on October 26 from 7:45 to 9:00 am. This event is being organized by individual members of The 2020 Partners who recognize the important role Hennepin County plays in the entire ballpark, transit-oriented neighborhood they serve. Donations are open and all are welcome.
- Absent any scary Halloween fundraising, Minneapolis Sixth Ward Council Member will close out October with an event on behalf of his reelection on October 29, 8:00 am at Elsie’s, 729 Marshall Street Northeast. We enjoy Council Member Warsame’s events because he never fails to look you in the eye and say thanks for coming. Further he is old school in terms of sending thank you notes, a custom disappearing as fast as eye contact on the streets of Minneapolis.
We will direct you to further information on any of these events. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summer Reading Issue
Last year we took the advice of the Star Tribune’s never shy but soon to be retiring Steve Brandt who urged delay of the summer reading issue so our avid followers could enjoy more active pursuits during a glorious August 2015. Looks like we are facing the same dilemma but this season the show will go on!
When we sent out the bat signal for your summer reading “hacks” (as the kids say) we must have gotten at least half a dozen recommendations for “A Man Called Ove.” Patricia Deinhart-Bauknight puts it this way:
I have two books to share. My favorite books this summer were “A Man Called Ove” and “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.” Swedish author Fredrik Backman has a unique blend of sorrow, glee, loneliness and love that entertained me (maybe that’s just my Swedish DNA) in a fresh way.
Brian Rice, Louis DeMars and Arvonne Fraser were eager to spread word regarding respected political practitioner, author and commentator Norman Sherman’s memoir: “From Nowhere to Somewhere: My Political Journey.” Sherman describes his rough and tumble life beginning with his boyhood, the son of Jewish immigrants, in North Minneapolis. Across his career Sherman was advisor to some of Minnesota’s most famous and effective political leaders including Karl Rolvaag, Orville Freeman, Jim Rice and Donald Fraser. (Now talk about strange bedfellows.) Perhaps the apex of his career was Sherman’s tenure as Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary. The book is loaded with insights and anecdotes including behind the scenes with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Pope Paul VI. We published too late to spread word of Mr. Sherman’s visit to Open Book (August 22) but given the passion behind the recommendations we will vouch for a great read.
Out of his man shack and onto his computer sprang Tom O’Rourke, executive director of the Hartley Nature Center up Duluth way.
These last two recommendations hit awfully close to home because that’s where they came from. Joan F. Oyaas, thirty-plus year admin vet of the Dorsey Law Firm, is loudly singing the praises of two highly-regarded memoirs: “Between the World and Me” and “The Grace of Silence.”
I know that you mostly make these reviews up [Ed. Note: Guilty, mostly] and I certainly don’t want mention or credit [Ed. Second Note: Too late], but I have read two wonderful and moving books that I think your Online cronies would find compelling. In past newsletters you have talked about the divide in this community—the angry on one hillside and the fearful on the other. In the valleys where they collide there is injustice and no healing. If we as a nation are to even begin the honest and no-doubt disturbing conversations that must occur before we can start healing, then we have to open our minds to the scars of history and ongoing human failings. Ta-Nehisi Coates takes on an honest reckoning of this fraught history in a letter to his adolescent son hoping that somehow he will find a way to be freed from the burden. Coates shares the profound experiences that shaped his life from Howard University to Paris to the living rooms of his own childhood. Coates’ command of both language and emotion shines a bright light on the past, tells the harsh truth about our present and offers hope for a way forward.
If you just read the dust jacket you might think that “The Grace of Silence” is the parallel journey of an African American woman to Coates’ male in “Between the World.” While accurate on one level Michele Norris’ personal story is a perfect companion, looking at the same themes but through dramatically different lenses. Norris, the well known co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered, grew up in Minneapolis. The references to people, places and things in my own life contributed to my enjoyment to be certain but it was her motivation to write the book that was most fascinating. During President Obama’s first election Ms. Norris wanted to explore the hidden conversation about race among the amorphous American public but her work soon turned to her own family. She discovered disturbing mile markers on her parents’ pasts and realized the hidden conversations began with her own family. The Norris family chose to keep those stories in a box with hopes that their children would soar and not be weighed by the woes of history.
Coming to grips with both those woes of her family’s past and the rewards of achievement, Ms. Norris provides readers with insights on how our conversations on race most proceed. I hope your Online readers find these memoirs as inspiring as I did.
The Strange Conversion of an Engaged Wonk
Now that we have been publishing on a more regular basis some of you more careful readers have noticed that Online speaks more and more with one voice rather than the award winning blended voice that has provoked for 22 odd years. It’s true that our senior editor has shifted focus; his diminishing contributions show in inferior prose and narrowed range of topic. Junior editor has colored the tone in a blunt take-no-prisoner fashion that almost presumes we are no longer using Online to market for business. That last remark couldn’t be further from the truth and junior is going to mend his ways, soon.
As far as senior goes we thought it was time to share the “dramatic” nature of the shift. Once upon a time there was a Charles S. Neerland, always natty down to the bow tie and occasional beret. His compact build and winning smile belied remarkable athletic prowess and competitive drive. Mr. Neerland had passion for community. He always provided clients with direct, honest and optimistic advice that was underpinned with the notion that their best interests should always be in line with the best interests of the greater good. That notion applied provided a lot to the common good and the bottom lines of treasured clients.
Everything changed this last April during a stormy weekend in Dallas, Texas. To most of the guests attending this particular wedding party it was a lovely evening in keeping with the love emanating from the newlyweds they were there to honor. Moved in Dallas like most of the world in the wake of Prince’s passing, the DJ started the second dance set of the night in tribute to the great one. The first few familiar bars of 1999 brought the crowd streaming to the dance floor. For the Liberal Arts raconteur we knew and still love (even if we no longer “know” him) something much more dramatic occurred. Prince’s riffs were to Neerland like the radioactive spider was to Peter Parker, or should we say that potion was to Dr. Jekyll? The bow tie went from the neck to around his head. He frantically tore the sleeves from his blue blazer and ripped the monogrammed buttons from the front. Then the artist formerly known as Chuck hit the dance floor with the fury of a seventeen year old in heat…ChasN was born.
ChasN has returned to the Twin Cities, but it isn’t the same. Nicollet Mall is just too small; Target Field is, in his eyes, merely a field. He still wears a beret but it is of a raspberry hue. ChasN has sought out a new crew and together they have crafted a creation from the deepest parts of their collective Third Eye.
Whew, that is a long lead in to let you all know that you can find ChasN in the flesh beginning tonight, Thursday, August 4, 2016, at the premier of The Cast was Dyed. This is an original work, the skeleton provided by accomplished actor and playwright Don Cosgrove, meat by ChasN and flourishes by fellow cast members Tom Joyal and John Beal. The Cast was Dyed has been described as your usual non-linear, quasi-dramatic interactive comedy, featuring magic leafs, chest piercing arrows and ravenous wolves.
Thanks to opening the dress rehearsal to critics, the early reviews are in and they are boffo. Joke Imball, culture editor for the Onion, called it “an introspective romp that delightfully tromps across heartache and leaves mirth in its wake.” Erin Cann of the Norwegian-Irish Gazette: “This is an anguish-filled lament kicked to the curb by rowdy audience participation. Woe is you if you don’t go!”
So if you want to catch up and see the human metaphor ChasN and take in great art, in less than an hour run time, go to the MN Fringe website. Performances are held at the Playwrights’ Center on August 4, 7, 9 and 13; start times vary so choose wisely.
Self-Proclaimed Expert Proclaims Christine Toy Johnson’s Portrayal of Bloody Mary Breathtaking
Trying to keep up with ChasN, we sent junior as our own stringer to catch the Guthrie Theater’s spectacular production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s American classic, South Pacific. He left thrilled, and claims to have seen his favorite play through a whole new lens and left a changed man (must be something in the water, what with all this changing). Given the storied theater company’s long tradition for excellence we expected this production to be “worthy” but had no clue of the new depth that director Joseph Haj would bring to this staging. Junior declares the cast assembled simply the most powerful ensemble he had seen on one stage, anywhere. The director’s keen eye was evident everywhere. “It’s the first time I have seen Nellie played with an authentic Arkansas accent and it makes the racial disconnect even more apparent.”
The standout, the featured jewel in a bedazzling crown, was the performance of Christine Toy Johnson as Bloody Mary. Ms. Toy Johnson’s commanding singing voice was the perfect punctuation for her deft interpretation of a pivotal character in this Pulitzer Prize winning script. “Too often, Bloody Mary is treated as a cartoonish laugh line, a comic foil that deflects the deep introspection of the plot,” observed our stringer. He went on to credit Ms. Toy Johnson’s interpretation as graceful and dignified as it was strong.
Both Junior and his wife, who actually made the arrangements and dragged our lout out for the evening, hope that Ms. Toy Johnson, as well as other cast and crew members working in Minneapolis for the first time, are enjoying their stay when finding escape from the grueling schedule. Like all insecure Minnesotans they desperately want visitors to feel at home and leave thinking that Minneapolis is cool, even in the heat of summer. Going forward we are confident that great things are in store for theater audiences under Mr. Haj’s leadership.
We reported earlier on Neerlands and theaters and do so again with pride. Online’s favorite little theater company that could, can and will has moved from its Central Avenue NE spot to a beautiful albeit quite raw spot in the warehouse complex on Kennedy in Northeast Minneapolis. Co-founders Josh Cragun and Liz Neerland are not ones to be daunted. Although converting this space that looks like it was designed to split atoms would seem insurmountable to some, it’s just another day in the theater for those two. Nimbus is getting sent to launch a capital/crowdfunding campaign. If you are so inclined to learn more, check the nimbus theater website or like them on Facebook.
As we bid adieu we remind you that next up is our summer reading issue, written neither by senior nor junior but relies on you, Dear Reader. Send us recommendations and we will let the world know what has been floating your mental boats this summer. Closed circuit to Lee Lynch and Pat Delaney: send us all the 411 on your creations and we will be certain to feature them prominently.
Firecracker of the Year
The office landline had a rare intermittent tone come the first Tuesday In June. What in the heck? Could it be there is opportunity waiting in the form of a voicemail? *99: “You have one new message and you better retrieve it!” (Even the machines tell us what to do.) BEEP…” Hola, you stumble bums, the siesta is over, you better get out from under your sombreros and dust off the publishing computer. This is the official self-appointed spokesperson for the Firecracker of the Year Committee. One of you jackasses needs to get on your donkey and ride over to the Minneapolis Farmers Market. Specifically we want you there at 6:45 am on June the 23rd. Marianna at Untiedt’s will have our report. She is not coming to find you deadbeats this year so we trust that you can follow through on one simple assignment.
At the appointed time and place we met up with aforementioned Queen of Strawberries and Ambassador of Good Will sent here each summer by Ukraine’s Minister of Peace and Understanding. Smiling brightly as is her wont, Marianna handed over the familiar Red Owl grocery bag offering the traditional “drobry den” greeting. It will surprise no one to learn we procrastinated all week before opening the contents of the sack, the good old Arco coffee tin, plastic lid sealing the contents per usual. It was a surprise to find the can contained a modern jump drive instead of the typically well scribed cursive note. With great anticipation and carelessly ignoring the threat of a virus we jammed the device into the nearest Dell.
Well if you are reading this on a computer screen it means you are further along technology-wise than half of the Firecracker of the Year Selection Committee thought you were. Given your sporadic publication schedule we thought it might help to give you a “jump” on getting this issue out on to the information superhighway.
First, it’s probably best if we remind readers what this is all about. The Firecracker of the Year is an award given to a person, or persons, who contribute to the betterment of the civic marketplace here in the Twin Cities, the cultural and financial Capital of the Upper Midwest (take that you “North” frauds). Our merry band formed organically over drinks in Charlie’s bar in 1993. We searched high and low and begged everybody from John Cowles Jr. to Burt Cohen to publish our nominees, but it wasn’t until we hit the bottom of the ink barrel that we found Neerland & Oyaas Online, desperate for content and warm to our concept.
Over the cycle, July to June we put forth nominees to be considered at our annual meeting on Memorial Day. We met where we normally do, around the round table in the Grill at the Minneapolis Club (we like to be alone during our deliberations). Normally the nominees tend to rank easily and the Firecracker is awarded with rapid consensus. This year we discovered we had four very high quality candidates in the mix. None of us had a clear favorite and we did not want to start precedent declaring a four way tie. Ultimately we determined that although each is inspirational and deserving, three of four have the opportunity to surface again so we played the posthumous card.
We recognize that your publication has offered several tips of the hat to the Community Reinvestment Fund (CRF) and its founder Frank Altman, but this Committee was not aware of the breadth of CRF’s accomplishments until some wonks among us saw that Frank and CRF were going to be recognized at the Clinton Global Initiative gathering in Atlanta. The big guy himself did indeed specifically honor the Detroit Home Mortgage program which is a collaboration that includes several Michigan banks, CRF and the Kresge Foundation. (Some may recognize the name Rip Rapson, the head of the Kresge Foundation. He was a high school tennis champ out of good ol’ Marshall U High in Minneapolis). CRF has been revolutionizing the art of community lending for more than 25 years, essentially bridging the gap between mainstream lending and community by increasing the attractiveness of community loans to traditional capital markets. The Committee would not be at all surprised if the next President Clinton taps Altman’s acumen for altruistic financial innovation in a formal way as part of her new administration. Certainly this would give Frank a pole position in the next cycle for Firecracker of the Year (FCY) consideration.
Our entire Firecracker confab has been wowed by the accomplishments of a determined athlete named Nate Augspurger who is headed to the Olympics in Rio as part of the US Rugby team. Nate was introduced to the sport by his father Andy, legendary RCF ruger from South Minneapolis. Nate followed his talented brother Sam into club rugby while at Minneapolis Southwest High School where he showed only flashes of what was to come. Nate joined the club team at the University of Minnesota spending long hours both in the gym and outside on the field all year long. By sophomore year Nate was one of the stars of the nationally ranked Gopher rugby club. Upon graduation from the UofM in 2012 with a degree in Sociology, Nate immediately accepted an invitation to train with the US Olympic development squad in San Diego and also began playing with the world renown New York Sevens. (Rugby is played essentially in two forms, “Union” which is 15 players on each team and “7’s” a seven on seven game that is played in two seven minute halves.) It has been 92 years since Rugby has been an Olympic sport and ironically the US, which is not considered a traditional rugby power, holds the last two Olympic golds (1920 and 1924). 2016 will be a 7’s battle and Nate will be in the thick of it. He is listed in programs as 5′7″ 170lbs but we think that is a misprint; the man’s heart is at least that big. Should the US shock the rugby establishment and bring home a medal, watch for Nate among the favorites in the next FCY edition.
The accomplishments of State Senator Terri Bonoff have been on the committee’s radar for some time now. In an era where uber-partisan behavior has all but wrecked the ship of state at all levels of government Senator Bonoff has been an exception to a most destructive rule. Her accomplishments are many but we are most impressed with the Pipeline Initiative, a very successful creative collaboration among Minnesota’s employers and post-secondary educators. The hallmark of Terri’s elected service is her desire to unite the “middle” and use the too-often untapped desire of the everyday citizen to work together, across party lines and in spite of regional differences. Senator Bonoff’s public service is informed by a rich family history in area retail (her grandfather founded the venerable Jackson Graves), her own business acumen honed at Tonka Toys and Navarre Corporation, along with strong Faith and mother bear love for family. The national embarrassment called the GOP primary touched Terri like it did most of the nation. Her ability to win election in a very purple senate district was one of the reasons Democratic Party leaders approached Terri to run for Congress in a likewise purple congressional district. CD 3 is not the GOP stronghold many think it to be. Both John Kerry and President Obama carried it. The gay marriage ban and voter ID measures lost handily. It will not be hard for Terri to show voters that she is up to the task of representing their broader interests in Washington DC. The tricky part will be to demonstrate that the incumbent is running on the fumes of the legacies of his predecessors, Jim Ramstad and Bill Frenzel. Congressman Paulsen’s support for Trump and NRA support for his campaign make some of that case already. Should the Bonoff upset occur, she will be well positioned for FCY next time around.
Now let’s move on to the winner. If one combined Altman’s genius with Augspuger’s grit and Terri Bonoff’s integrity into one human being, it would surely resemble the late great Wheelock Whitney. Many of us on the committee were close to Wheelock, making friendships through civic and political endeavors, chemical dependency and human rights awareness as well as matters regarding professional sports. Upon his passing in May, many of Wheelock’s accomplishments were well chronicled in great detail in far more respectable publications than N&O Online but we want to share a moment that will remained emblazoned in our memories until our final curtains fall.
The Selection Committee in its formative years sent a contingent to talk with Wheelock about our committee and its mission to promote bold civic and individual behavior. The discussion made its way to the topic of the potential contraction of the Twins, which was being proposed at that time, at the highest levels of major league baseball. Seated in well-worn leather chairs around his desk in his Foshay Tower office, Wheelock educated us about the history of major league baseball in Minnesota. He explained how his partnership with seven other potential markets to form a new major league under the leadership of Branch Rickey ultimately forced the establishment to relent. Wheelock excused himself and returned with a tattered manila file which contained a set of letters from Rickey to Wheelock. They were all hand written, fountain pen on legal paper. There were maybe four separate letters, two or three pages each. Wheelock unfolded them one by one upside down to him for our benefit, one by one reading highlights from each, obviously from memory. He stopped at one point to point out a cigar ash and a watermark at the top of one particular page. Rickey had drawn an arrow to point the mark out with a parenthetical note (sorry Wee, these tables in the club car are too damn small for my tablet, scotch and ashtray). He looked up at us and said “This was never a story about a brash Whitney kid from Stearns County. The Continental League was a means to something much bigger led by Branch Rickey himself. This man knew baseball, this man knew social and economic justice and he never feared today knowing tomorrow would be much better.” It was the story of vision, perseverance and honesty.
Genius, Grit, Integrity… Wheelock Whitney, our Firecracker of the Year. The committee further unanimously reports that beginning July 4, 2016 the Lifetime Achievement Award shall be known as the “Wheels Up,” honoring this man who embodied all that the Firecracker of the Year is meant to be.
Previous Firecrackers of the Year:
Patrick Born (2015); Dylan Kesti (2014); R.T. Rybak (2013); Sam Grabarski, Lifetime Achievement, and Will Leer (2012); Todd Andrews (deceased, 2011); Kieran Folliard (2010); George Brophy (deceased, 2009); Arvonne Fraser, accepting on behalf of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barbara Alivato (deceased), Rochelle Olson, Kathleen O’Brien, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Barbara Johnson, and Julie Kramer (2008); Joe Kimball, Lifetime Achievement, and Peter McLaughlin, accepting on behalf of Anita Duckor, Friends of the Minneapolis Library, Colin Hamilton, Sheldon Mains, Gary Thaden, Kit Hadley, Amy Ryan and John Gibbs (2007); Shane Nackerud (2006); Michael Opat (2005); Joe Baier and Julie J. “JJ” Haywood-Palmer (2004); Nick Koch (2003); Ann Barkelew (2002); Betsy Hodges (2001); David Barnhill (2000); Judy Zaitz (1999); Cornell Moore (1998); James Lileks (1997); Rick Stafford (1996); Coral Houle (1995); and Michael Rainville, The Original (1994).