Issue 12 - 10 July, 2005
Minnesota's most famous personality says, "Spend more money kids!"
Three weekends ago we went to a wedding in St Paul, Minnesota. Now for those of you who may not know where that is (and let's face it, does anyone outside Minnesota know the answer to this one?), it's right in the middle of the map of the USA, at the top, near the Canadian border. St Paul is probably famous only because it is a twin city with its more famous neighbour, Minneapolis, which is on the other side of the Mississippi river.
Now there's something I did not know - the Mississippi flows all the way from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico. It certainly is a very determined river! What this means however is that on a macro level the USA must slope downhill, from the top to the bottom, and from the edges to the centre. I'm no expert (no way - Kim is the one getting a degree in this stuff), but I figure those glaciers in the last Ice Age have a lot to answer for.
When you live at the top of a very gently sloping plain which goes from the top of the USA to the bottom, perhaps it makes sense that there is so much wetland. Minnesota is the state of 10,000 lakes, and I think it must have the bog marsh as its state flower.
If you live at the top of the bog, imagine how bad it would be if you lived at the bottom? If you live on the Canadian border, at least the snow freezes the bugs for six months of the year.
Scott and Melissa were kind enough to invite us to their wedding because Melissa was one of Kim's "sisters" when she was here as an exchange student in 1994 (lots of opportunity for comedy there, but the personal risk to way too high). I'll have to set the scene here for you though. I am an accountant, working for the largest investment bank in the world, based in New York. The bride and groom are wetland biology experts and diehard environmentalists, and therefore so were most of the guests. How I got out of there alive is anyone's guess.
Actually, someone must have tipped off the local horse flies as to who I was, because they rounded up a local posse to come and get me. Unpleasant little buggers - they should be required to give a pint of blood every six months like the rest of us. They should have plenty of mine left over that's for sure.
The day, the people, and the Arikians don't meet my normal standards for ridicle, so I won't demean them by trying to find comedy value in true beauty. The wedding itself was great fun - in the open at a nature centre about 45 minutes from St Paul. The weather was hot and humid, the bride was beautiful, and for the first time in my life I did not have to wear a suit to a wedding (given the setting), and it made me happy given the heat. Everything was perfect, and the couple (and their guests) are genuine and loveable in every way. It was a true honour to be invited to attend and to share such a special day.
Some photos of the day follow.
All the Arikian girls...
Minneapolis/St Paul is also the home of (I'm shouting loudly here) THE WORLD'S LARGEST SHOPPING MAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLL. In the world. The largest. In the world. As Fluffy would say: Like, big, Like.
The Mall of America is indeed the largest mall I have ever been to (thereby validating the claim to fame at least). Kim and I spent exactly 90 minutes there, and walked the entire length and breadth of all five floors which cover at least five normal Manhattan blocks, and bought........ nothing.
Well, actually we needed a drink because we had walked so far, but apart from that: nothing.
It felt strange. Here is a place I have heard of for so long, but it felt just like Lynnmall, the Seedamm Centre, the mall at Wimbledon or Penrith Plaza (actually, for some reason Penrith Plaza felt bigger). In the end, instead of 50 stores full of stuff I didn't want to buy, there were 500 all full of stuff I still didn't want to buy. Actually we did - we wanted some mouthwash and face creme from a pharmacy (of which three are five within 90 seconds walk from our apartment in New York), but unbelievably there is not a single pharmacy in THE WORLD'S LARGEST SHOPPING MAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL. In the world.
Explain that one if you can.
Charles Schultz is from Minnesota though, so there is a Snoopy theme park in the middle of the mall, including a full sized roller coaster, and at least 20 other rides. Come on Lynnmall, a Footrot Flats theme park is the clear path to international Mall fame and stardom!
Kim has gone off on her annual month away from me, attending a field study course in Durham in the UK for this week, then climbing in the Lake District, then off to Australia for three weeks to spend time with her sister Keryle, who is expecting a baby in the next few weeks (fingers crossed - good luck Keryle, and especially Mark!). I, on the other hand, have to satisfy myself with a simple move of office (this is my third desk in my four months here), two blocks even further downtown. The building itself is very recognisable (it is the big silver one in the photos below), and you should be able to pick it out in the opening credits of any movie since it was built in the late 1960's (since at least 50% of all movies seem to start with a helicopter shot of Downtown - I believe it to be true even if you choose to prove me wrong). I like it already for that reason - trying to explain to people in later life that I used to live in the apartment you can't see behind the big building in the opening credits is a pain - now I can shout "that was my office" in the movie theatre every time. Talk about opportunity - I'll bet you wish you could come to the movies with me just to bathe in my reflected glory...
My new office is the grey L-shaped one to the left of the sail here.
New York from Staten Island. New Jersey to the left, Manhattan in the middle, and Brooklyn on the right. The trees were not available for this picture due to an environmental dispute (and a reluctance to travel anywhere near the East River).
I'd send you some photos of Durham, etc., but the satellite link is down at the moment, thanks to Cingular Wirless' dirty tactics of selling us a nice expensive phone which works internationally, but refusing to activate it for international use. For the avoidance of doubt, US residents reading this need to know that they have one of the least developed mobile phone networks (and most antiquated "sorry, that's not in our policy" systems) in the world. People in Tanzania have more options than residents of New York. And that one is not a joke - I've been to Tanzania, and I know that mobile phones work on top of Mt Kilimanjaro - a five day hike from the nearest building - here mobile phones don't even work on top of my building on the most densely populated island in the Western world. Go figure.
And Cingular - get over yourselves. I have a policy which can't be changed as well - I write bad things in my blog about companies who only do business through uneducated salesmen-sharks backed up by drone call centres operating with no authority to override ridiculous racist policies which discriminate against foreigners. I want to sit the NY state bar exam here just so that I can sue you for egregious corporate arrogance. I wouldn't win, because I know you will have contributed enough to the Republican Party to make sure you could just have a law passed to outlaw me, but I can be just as annoying to you, as you are to me. So be nice - I chose you, you don't get to choose me.
There is a movie being shot for the next eight weeks outside my (new) office. It it is a Spike Lee movie, starring Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster. I've walked past it a few times, but so far no sign of the real stars yet. Lots of sexy and expensive looking white trailers though - photos to follow (if I can take one past the security guards).