Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Life in a Northern Town

My mind is currently addled by the release of the new Thor trailer and the fact that I am carrying far too many responsibilities at once. Oh, and I'm apparently graduating in less than a month, despite the fact that Minneapolis got snow the other night (thought it's warming up now, finally). Regardless, the post I intended to write leagues away and the words don't want to come about anything else. So, if you don't mind, I'm going to prattle on about some issues of existing and hope that I can get back to more fandom related things on Saturday.
It is astonishing how much of my life is spent at war with space. By space, I mean the area around me - home, town, actual current physical location. I don't know if I've ever been completely satisfied with the area I'm in from a long-term perspective. For a girl who used to hate leaving a place due to several moves from one town to another when I was younger, I have become a rather restless individual, filled with wanderlust. And at the same times, I'd rather not leave where I am. I'm beginning to want things to come here, for Minneapolis to be more of a cultural iconic city, like New York or LA or even Chicago. Part of it is due to the fact that Minneapolis is an absolute fascinating city and yet a pretty well-kept secret as far as tourism and popularity of American cities goes. True, this is partly due to the fact that we get snow in April, but also because we're in "flyover country." To those of you who don't live in a country so large that it takes a week to travel across it (by car, I should mention), this idea is perhaps a bit strange. Because the United States is ridiculously large and consists of a great deal of sprawling land, there are bits large chunks of it that kind of get forgotten. Like the entire state of North Dakota (sorry, North Dakota). And Nebraska. And... well, if you watch the NBC Nightly News, you'd think the only parts of the country where things generally happened were the East and West Coasts (ie: New York and LA) and sometimes Texas and Florida. The Midwest, despite its great size and differing regions gets lumped together and often ignored. This wouldn't be a bit deal except for the fact that the US is personified as this big, homogenous landscape that's personified in either the NYC or LA lifestyle or the idealized suburban landscape and it gets annoying when there is so much more than that at play. I get frustrated when people think Minneapolis and St. Paul are the exact same city. Despite the fact that he only thing that separates them is a river and some neighborhoods and zoning lines, they are actually really different towns with different personalities. They developed differently, had different companies and businesses settle in them, and have different histories. They have much in common, but they are also very unique. Which is for some reason hard for some to wrap their minds around.
The longer I live in Minnesota, the more I think about how cool it is. It's a mix of lumberjack/Paul Bunyan mythology, Scandinavian roots, lake and river and wetland environment along with the Great Plains, frontier and settler history, mill and factory foundations... it's really complicated, actually. After growing up in a state like Indiana who's culture is much more... well, homogeneous, it seemed (of course, I was very young when I lived in Indiana and perhaps it just seemed more that way than how it may be), Minnesota seems really varied. When I consider how much the Twin Cities have to offer, culturally and so on, it really frustrates me how LA and New York have become such focal points instead of it being a little more of an equal playing field (and if I feel this way, how the heck does the rest of the world feel?). That's not to say that there aren't vibrant theater and music and film scenes here; there absolutely are. It's just that there's the idea in order to really "make it," you have to move to LA or NYC and, generally, that idea seems to hold true. And so, it's an ongoing struggle to keep film, music, theater, and other art forms stimulated when there such a strong impetus to go elsewhere. I realize that I live in a large city in a very unique part of the country and the world, so my complaining is rather pointless when there are other cities in other parts of the world that are being affected far, far more than Minneapolis is. But it kind of sucks to see from the inside how these - well, these almost cultural monopolies are hurting other cultures outside the US and the cultures of the US itself.

Admittedly, not everyone wants to go to the coasts (I've been told repeatedly how cutthroat it is), and so there are growing opportunities around the country for those who look at what it might take to make it in Hollywood and proclaim, "Well, screw that." Unfortunately, those areas are still privileged as more spectacular and innovative and are given a special prestige that other areas aren't. However, there are really cool people who live in NYC and LA and choosing not to go out there limits the people you could work with, the people you could meet, the life you could live. The space you lives in shapes you, perhaps not always in ways we realize, and perhaps in ways that are so obvious we don't consider it.

Clearly I've spoken before about my issues with space and culture, especially in terms of celebrity culture. I continue to ponder about why it matters so much that we don't have many "global" celebrities from Minnesota or why celebrities don't often come here for things. We are certainly not the only part of the world this happens to. But it's funny to think that, really, even though I live in the same country as half a bajillion celebrities, my chances of ever meeting them are really no better than that of someone living in Europe or Asia. There are 7 billion on this planet and yet I still I have the audacity to think that it could happen (sort of quoting the rapper Watsky there, but you get the idea).

I could ramble on about why there's such a draw to go to different cities (global cities, my suburbia professor might call them), but I'm going to assume that I'm not the only one who's longed to live somewhere else, somewhere where the "action" is happening, whether that refers to more activity in terms of work, people, or just general cultural iconic perception. I still want to live in London - mainly because I love London and also because it seems beautiful and fascinating and wonderful. But I also remind myself that some of the things that occasionally drive me to live elsewhere - feeling trapped, feeling bored, wanting to escape something - are things that aren't going to disappear entirely just because I live somewhere else. My environment may influence me, but so do the people around me and my mindset. Moving will not magically change anything. However, I still plan to live abroad eventually (much sooner rather than later, I reckon) because I'm restless and I like traveling. But I also have a greater appreciation for where I am now than I had just a year ago.

Minneapolis is a pretty amazing city. This has been a growing realization as a more permanent
resident of the town due to my college experiences. But working in the most renown theater in Minneapolis has really hit it home for me. Just last night I saw the play "Nice Fish," a new production stemming from the works of Duluth poet Louis Jenkins and actor Mark Rylance. If you are not me, you've probably heard of Mark Rylance before now. Before I heard about this play, I hadn't heard of Rylance, which seems pathetic and impossible in retrospect, because I have certainly seen him in films before. Anyway, Mr. Rylance is in Minneapolis, having co-written this play, is directing in it, and acting in it. And it is wonderful and lovely and brilliant, a charming, poignant sort of "Waiting for Godot" meets Norse mythology meets Minnesota culture.

The gloating sort of thing for the city is that it's gathered some attention - perhaps not from other parts of the US (it seemed the NY Times and other such publications were silent on the whole show) but The Guardian ran a little piece about it, especially as Rylance was the artistic director of the Globe Theater for ten years (excuse me, I need to freak out right now). The point is, Mark Rylance has been very quickly added to my list of favorite actors and I've realized that, despite the predominant focus on our big global cities, things are happening in my city. Sure, they're not the sorts of things that are going to show up on E! news or anything like that, but it's awesome in its own right. And this isn't even accounting for all the local bands, the experimental theater, the other amazing stuff that's going on but will never get the same press coverage and exposure because of... well, that's a different story, a whole argument about a sort of divide between "indie vs. mainstream" but I'm just going to hold off on that tension until Saturday, when I finally tackle the hipster vs. fan argument. 

Also, I think if I keep going on, I feel like this might arrive at a urban vs. suburban vs. rural debate which, as much as I'd like to talk about that, I'm not up for the challenge right now. And this post is already ridiculously long. So I'm going to stop talking and leave you with one of the best kept secrets of Minneapolis - the musician John Mark Nelson. I saw him perform just a few months ago and WOW. I mean wow. He's pretty much amazing. So enjoy.

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