Friday, August 28, 2009

Minnesota Nice.

There is something strange happening in Minnesota. A situation arises that would normally evoke retaliation...something that would justify anger...a snide comment...maybe even a right hook to the jaw...but what actually occurs is like nothing I've ever seen before. Pleasantries are exchanged...often times a polite smile followed by some highly encoded nice words. It's passive aggressiveness at its finest. It's called "Minnesota Nice" and it's what Minnesotans use to avoid outright conflict...and it makes me crazy.

Minnesota Nice allows Minnesotans talk about people behind their backs and hold a lengthy grudge all the while maintaining the fascade that nothing ever happened. There's nothing wrong. You would never even get to a conversation about the possibility of there being something wrong because no one would ever bring it up. Or someone makes a cutting remark but you don't know at first because when they say it they are smiling and saying things like, "Well dontcha know." with that cute Norweigan Fargo-esque accent...and it takes a few minutes for it to process...then you go "Wait a minute...what was that!?!?"

Allow me to translate...

"Well, I 'spose..." really means "I'm done talking to you about this so shut your face."

"So..." really means "This is totally awkward and I don't want to sit here silently because I don't
like you enough to endure the silence with you."

"Well here we like to call that a hotdish." really means "Quit calling it a freaking casserole."

"So...have you ever seen anything like a winter in Minnesota?" really means
"You realize you are crazy for
moving here and as soon as
starts snowing- you are
to die."

Just say it. I'm good with it. I prefer direct contact. In new goal in Minnesota is to piss a Minnesotan off so bad they lose their Norwegian cool and punch me in the face. I'm going for the shiner. I know it's not very Minnesota Nice...but I'm not that nice period. Dontcha know.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I Don't Camp.

I have a confession. I grew up in Northern California and I’ve never camped. I have slept in a tent before. It was more for survival however...not as a means of leisure. I know. It’s disgraceful. It’s amazing that I am still allowed to call myself a Californian. It’s not my fault though. My mom grew up camping every summer with my grandparents and was so traumatized that she vigilantly shielded my brother and I from sharing her experiences. However, in mom’s defense- I have gotten to experience countless other methods of enculturalization and am not too damaged from my lack of camping.

So, two weekends ago I was taken to the southeastern corner of Minnesota for my first camping excursion. I would like to think it was because my boyfriend and very few friends here in the middle genuinely wanted me to experience all the things they love about "roughing it" and spending a few days in the great outdoors enjoying God's country. BUT...something tells me it was more for their sinister enjoyment...getting to watch me camp... than my new life experience. Regardless...we went.

First of all...I had no idea that there was more than one style of camping. There is "Camper Camping" ...which I think in California we just call "RVing" ...then there is "Tent Camping".

And then there is regular camping or I don't know what they call it...backwoods camping?....super camping? extreme camping?- it's the kind of camping where you don't stay at a campground- you just drive into total desolation until your vehicle can go no further and then you walk with all of your gear to the most remote spot you can find. Bears, snakes, pine cone toilet's rugged. We opted for the regular tent there were bathrooms, showers, but we still cooked outside and slept in tents.

It's a real vacation.

My friend, Kara, is a camping nazi. She had a four page list of all the supplies we would need for two days of camping. TWO DAYS. I was totally planning to bring a sleeping bag...some shorts...and my flip flops. Maybe some cheetos. I wasn't even thinking about bringing a pillow until I saw her list. Dishsoap, pots, pans, paper towels, hand sanitizer, hot dogs, cheese, playing cards, milk, camping chairs (which are apparently different than regular chairs?), spices, wireless internet routers, canopies, kleenex, footballs, golf clubs, ziplock bags, passports, pitch forks, small unloaded fire arms, band-aids, futons, cookie dough, bicycles...let's just say that had there been a natural disaster or an international security crisis we could have survived for WEEKS on hot dogs alone. least we would have had a futon to sleep on.

So we spent two nights sleeping under the stars...well, in tents under the stars. I have to say putting up a tent was a lot easier than I anticipated. I mean it looked easier. I helped...Okay, I observed, but next time I know I'll be ready. The first night was perfect. It was a little chilly out but not too cold so I slept great...until about 3 in the morning when I realized that the air mattress camping nazi Kara and I were sleeping on had morphed into a chalupa and, while it was still retaining some air, most of the air was only supporting random parts of my body. So...we spend the night in a taco shell. But we slept (sort of).

Then night was even cooler outside, which I was quite pleased with... I like to sleep cold. We gave up on the chalupa mattress and decided to brave it on the ground. Just us... a tent floor and our sleeping bags... and the fifteen sheets Kara packed. So we get to sleep (exhausted from the night before) and about two hours later...the storm moves in. Like a freaking midwest monsoon. Our tent shook violently and leaked...or rather gushed... all through the night. Only our tent. Chad slept just fine. Eric...slept like a rock. Matt and Wendy...well they had a double air mattress so they practically slept like they were at the Hyatt. But...Kara and I...we collectively occupied the space of a small child in our 8-10 man tent just trying to avoid the Chinese water torture leaking through our roof. Awesome. We woke up to wet pillows...wet clothes...and really sore joints. Thank the good Lord for the automatic hand dryer in the fully equipped camping bathroom.

So..for approximately 48 hours (actually it was more like 36) I camped. I think Bear Grylls would have been proud. I did not bite the head off of a small reptile, but I did eat pizza cooked on a camp fire (AMAZING). Drifted down a river in a large non-life saving floatation device. Had absolutely no cell phone coverage. Brushed my teeth outdoors. Swam across a large flooded rock quarry. Rode my bike in the dark with my toiletries hanging on the handle. Slept outdoors (sort of). Dried my clothes on a clothesline (right up until it rained). And ate a taco in a bag.
I come home and share my camping war stories and people just smile and share their camping stories...all of which involved leaking tents, packing too much food and mediocre air mattresses. Go figure. I still don't understand, but at least I survived.

I'm still not sure about the backwoods camping stuff. Not really my thing. I'm pretty attached to toilets and running water.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Heads or Tails.

I feel like I probably need to explain how the heck I, a girl from Northern California, ended up moving to North Central Minnesota. Let me first preface by saying:

I am EXTREMELY independent...maybe too independent...maybe borderline feminist.

I am educated...two degrees in three years- thank you very much.

I have BIG goals.

I vote. I recycle. I think for myself...again...maybe too much.

So when I say, I moved to Minnesota for a BOY...don't judge me. I did. It's true. I moved for love. I like to tell people we flipped a coin and I lost, but the truth is- we didn't. We just decided someone had to do it and it might as well be me.

It makes me neither weak nor mindless (I say that more for my own reassurance than yours...whoever you are). It was strategy. I am going somewhere with this crazy move. I'm almost positive.

Here's the story:

My best friend, Ryan 's sister had a kid from Illinois living at her house who had a friend from Minnesota that they decided the wanted to set up with Ryan. You may want to read that again. It gets tricky...I maybe draw up a flow chart. So they did. Like...two months later (maybe it was a year) they get married and then Ryan, meets Chad (my boyfriend) while she is visiting her husband's family in Minnesota.

Ryan thinks Chad is wonderful... comes home to California and decides she is going to play match maker. Chad and I eventually meet but don't date. Six months later Chad contacts me...we become friends....three months later he decides he can't live without me and we decide to date long distance until I can eventually convince him to move to California and... two years later here I am living in Brainerd, Minnesota. Have you seen Fargo? Yeah.

So Ryan's plan may have backfired slightly...but at least it gives me something to write about. I'm not a supporter of cyber-PDA so I'll spare the details of how wonderful Chad is (he is), but let's just say I moved because...he's just that great and I didn't want to spend another minute away from him. I know...blah, blah, blah. So now I brave sub-zero winters and Mosquito infested summers...for love.

BUT...I'm not THAT girl. I swear. It's all about strategy.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Upgrade

I bought a new car last night. I have had my little Volkswagen Beetle since college and, while I do like it...mostly because of the blue interior lights, it was time for a change. My car is a stick and from what I hear, driving a stick shift in the snow can be...challenging. So I did what any Volkswagen owner would do...I bought a Jetta. I'm telling's the lights. Who doesn't want blue interior lights?

This is what I learned in the process...
1- All cars must be either all wheel drive or have the capacity to wear snow tires in the winter
2- You have to check any vehicle considered for purchase for rust damage. Apparently salt on the roads in the winter creates rust issues in the summer? I'm not totally sure.
3- No matter how much you LOVE driving a stick's just not worth it.
4- Air conditioning is optional
5- Practical, fuel efficient, economically sized vehicles are EASY to come by because if it doesn't haul, tow or blend in with the woods...most Minnesotans don't want it. Go figure.

So my new car (with no rust damage) and my old car (with no rust damage) are sitting in front of my house. It's quite symbolic. Maybe with this little Volksie I will get less speeding tickets? We'll see.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Leaving the Coast.

Moving is a scary thing. I didn't realize how stressful it was until I woke up one morning and half of my face wasn't moving. Seriously. I thought I'd had a stroke. I didn't. Apparently some people get cold sores when they are under serious stress...I got Bell's Palsy. Google it. It's weird.

So my face is half frozen for three weeks just as I'm about to quit my job, pack up my little Volkswagon and move from the Suburbs of Sacramento to the middle of Minnesota.

Who does that? Apparently ME.

It's funny. I've been in the Great North (no snow yet, but it is still August...we'll give it a few more weeks). for about a month now. My face is functioning properly again. Except when I yawn...there are some remnants of the paralysis that make an appearance. It's pretty entertaining though. Anyways...people know I'm new in town. It might be the California plates, maybe what's left of my tan. Maybe the faux hawk I've been sporting... or the fact that I don't say "I 'spose" or "so" at the end of every sentence.

I don't know.

But when people hear I'm from California and that I've just moved to Brainerd, Minnesota of all places the response I usually get is "WHY?" And it's not just a curious "why" it's an "ARE YOU INSANE " why.

It's cool. I can deal with it. I am. Hanging onto every last moment of summer. Wondering if winter is as bad as they say it is. There are definitely moments of total panic. Where I can hardly breath and wonder what I have done to my life...but they are short-lived and allow for a fairly quick recovery.

My life in Sacramento was CRAZY busy. I loved it that way. But as the chaos has come to a screeching halt and I find myself with lots of time to think and read and write and go out on any one of thousands of lakes (by the way...a lake beach is SO NOT an ocean beach but they call it "the beach" anyways) and

...I think, "Ya, I can do this."

So begins the Adventures in the Middle. I'm not sure who will be more cultured shocked. Me adjusting to Minnesota or Minnesota adjusting to me. Stay tuned. It's guaranteed to be at the very least...interesting.