Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge

Today, Thursday, was my birthday.  So, I had the first of my birthday celebrations.  (Jerry believes birthdays should be celebrated or at least acknowledged for a month.)  We couldn’t think of a more appropriate place in Minneapolis for a birthday lunch with an old friend than Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge.

TIKI TIME ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER.

The place is staffed by a gang of obviously cool, funky, punky, tattooed wait-staff.  The menu is also kind of cool, funky, punky, and maybe even a little tattooed, and included options like: Beer-Battered Cheese Curds, described as “cheesy wonders made with love by our neighbor’s cows”; Backfire Dip; and Potluck Pickle Roll-Ups (“Minnesota Sushi.  Trashy, but tasty.”).  I stuck with a really good and really healthy salad filled with lots of good stuff, including some incredible Spanish olives.

FOR POTTY STOPS.  RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO CHICKS AND CHICKS ON WHEELS.
The restaurant is situated on the Mississippi River with loads of indoor and outdoor seating.  It was a beautiful day, so we were able to enjoy the outdoors. The décor is pure tiki bar with some kicky signage here and there.  The bar welcomes visitors with a neon sign that reads: “Mender of Broken Dreams.” I forgot my camera — yet again — so we’ll all have to get by — yet again — with photos from my iPhone.
THE EXIT.

Retail Therapy: I Need a Sedative

SHOPPING FOR THE PATRIOTIC.

I’m not a shopping fanatic, but I do enjoy my retail therapy now and then.  And, even though Jerry and I have gotten rid of just about everything in preparation for our move to Spain — NOW JUST FOUR WEEKS AWAY — there are still things I need.  Like socks and underwear.  Some new black, designer-chic T-shirts.  A gift for our friends’ 7-year-old daughter here in Minneapolis.  AA batteries for Jerry’s laptop mouse.

ONE OF THE CALMER SPACES I PASSED THROUGH.

I had the brilliant, I thought, idea of heading over to the Mall of America yesterday afternoon to take care of all my shopping at one time.  Jerry is NOT a shopper.  He lasts about 10 minutes and is then bored.  So, I left him back at the hotel and I drove the 10 minutes through Bloomington, Minnesota, to the mega-mall.

I FELT LIKE I WAS INSIDE A VIDEO GAME.

I don’t know what I was thinking.  I had been to the Mall of America once before.  That was years ago and with Jerry.  Amazingly, I was the one to reach saturation point soonest on that visit.  The place is enormous, noisy, frenetic, confusing, inconvenient.  Just way too big.  I nearly had a panic attack that first time and was happy to leave after a couple of hours.

THE CENTER OF THE MALL AND THE QUICKEST WAY TO CROSS IT… AND TO LOSE YOUR MIND.

The center of the mall is a ginormous indoor amusement park.  It’s the quickest way to get from one side of the mall to the other.  It is also to be avoided like the plague.  I forgot myself and decided to cut across the amusement park only to go about 20 paces and change my mind.  The long way around the mall is a better choice.

I COULDN’T EVEN DESCRIBE THE INTERIOR “DESIGN.”

I parked by Macy’s and found all the clothing items I needed.  I then took a deep breath and headed into the mall itself.  I lasted another half hour.  I bought a belt (a pleasant salesperson and calm store), a game for Sophie the 7-year-old (a noisy, chaotic store with an annoying and yet completely unhelpful salesperson), batteries for Jerry (even that was chaos), and I made my escape.  Escalators are inconveniently placed; the Up escalator always seven miles away from the Down escalator (OK, maybe I exaggerate just a tad).  I suppose this is planned so you’ll pass more shops while trying to reach your intended destination.  So, getting from Point A to Point B is never easy.  But, I managed to find my way back to Macy’s, through the luggage department, and back out to my car in Parking Lot 5 West Nevada.  I drove back to the hotel in rush-hour traffic and enjoyed the calm.  I’m hoping that will be my absolute last ever visit to the Mall of America.  People actually vacation there, staying in hotels across the street!  Insane.

THE VIEW FROM PARKING LOT 5 WEST NEVADA.  MALL BUILDINGS TO THE HORIZON.

From Sioux Falls to a Straight River

THE MONARCH OF THE PLAINS (AKA THE AMERICAN BISON OR BUFFALO).

We spent the weekend in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and enjoyed a gathering of Jerry’s extended family on Sunday.  Monday morning, we headed off in the car for a week in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But, on the way out of Sioux Falls, we stopped at Falls Park, a beautiful place northeast of downtown on the Sioux River.

LOVE THAT MUDDY WATER.

The park was developed in the 1990s and improvements continue to be made.  The 1908 Sioux Falls Light and Power Company hydroelectric plant is now the Falls Overlook Cafe.  It’s got a great menu, charming spaces to sit and relax, picture and history books to browse, historic photos, and gourmet coffees. Jerry’s maternal grandfather worked in that very building beginning in the 1930s; he would have appreciated a good cup of coffee at the time.

THE HYDROELECTRIC PLANT: NOW, FALLS OVERLOOK CAFE.

Sioux Falls was still a young city at the time the hydroelectric plant was built, having been founded in 1857.  South Dakota became a state in 1889 — although most of my New York family still think Jerry grew up in Dakota Territory or, as my father used to say, “the Dakotas.”

THE RUINS OF THE OLD QUEEN BEE WHEAT MILL IN THE CENTER BACKGROUND.
OPENED IN 1881.  CLOSED IN 1883.  DESTROYED BY FIRE IN 1956.

The old plant and other structures were built from the beautiful Sioux quartzite mined right there at the prison quarry on the river.  Prisoners from the prison on the bluff overlooking the falls mined the quartzite and then used horse-drawn wagons to haul the dressed blocks of stone up the bluff to add onto the prison and to create the wall that replaced the original wood stockade.

JOHN MORRELL & CO. MEAT PACKING PLANT VIEWED BEHIND THE PARK’S VISITOR CENTER.

Adjacent to the park is John Morrell & Co., founded in England in 1827 and considered to be the oldest continuously operating meat manufacturer in the U.S.  Jerry’s mother, father, and several aunts and uncles all worked there at some time.

JERRY’S MORRELL MEATS TOY TRUCK.  PURCHASED BY HIS MOTHER IN THE EARLY 1950s.
DONATED TO CHARITY IN EARLY 2011.

Jerry remembers taking tours of the plant when he was a kid.  “Tony” gave the tours and you could actually walk on catwalks and observe the animals being slaughtered.  I’m glad they don’t do that anymore.  A little bit of trivia from Jerry:  The sheep were led to slaughter by a goat (because sheep would willingly follow goats).  So, the goat was called the “Judas Goat.”

ONE QUICK PHOTO OUTSIDE MORRELL’S — THE STENCH WAS INTOLERABLE!

We left Sioux Falls, South Dakota, late morning for our 262-mile (422-km) drive to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where we now enjoy the city and incredible friends.  On the drive up through Minnesota yesterday, after stopping along the way for lunch, gas, and to wash more bug guts off the windshield, we made a final potty stop at a rest area about an hour south of the city.  We probably would have stopped at this particular rest area whether we had to go or not.

REST AREA ON THE STRAIGHT RIVER IN MINNESOTA.  WE USED THE FACILITIES.
NO ONE CHALLENGED US.

One Last Pass Through the City of Mitchell, South Dakota

“A ONE AND A TWO…”  LAWRENCE WELK.  A CORN PALACE ICON BORN AND RAISED
IN THE GERMAN-SPEAKING TOWN OF STRASBURG, NORTH DAKOTA. 

Jerry and I drove today to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for a family get together on Sunday.  It’s about a 4-hour drive from Pierre and on the way — about 3 hours into the trip — we passed through the city of Mitchell, South Dakota.  It seemed only appropriate that we stop in Mitchell, my namesake, one last time before our move to Spain.

THIS YEAR’S THEME.  OVER THE TOP WITH PATRIOTISM, CONSERVATISM, AND CHRISTIANITY.

Mitchell, South Dakota, is the home of the Mitchell Corn Palace.  It is proudly billed as the “world’s only corn palace” and hosts stage shows and sporting events in its arena.  The original Corn Palace, called “The Corn Belt Exposition” was established in 1892. Early settlers displayed the fruits of their harvest on the building’s exterior in order to prove the fertility of South Dakota soil. The current building was completed in 1921.

TWO OF THE SIDE “MOSAICS.”
WHAT’S MORE AMERICAN THAN APPLE PIE AND UNCLE SAM?

The Corn Palace is a classic example of American kitsch.  But the detail and workmanship is very impressive since all the mosaics are created using corn and grains.  The latest art is still in progress.

THE STREETS OF MITCHELL  COWBOYS, GAMBLING HALLS, SALOONS, AND MORE.

In the past, I’ve enjoyed the artwork on the Corn Palace.  But this time, I was a bit put off by the two separate panels depicting Christians (and only Christians) — the cross prominently displayed — preparing to worship with their families; and the ultra-patriotic (which I should expect and be used to, I suppose) panels depicting conservatism and American chauvinism… subjects that make me extremely uncomfortable.

ON THE WAY OUT OF TOWN.  AN ENORMOUS FIBERGLASS COW. 
MAKES YOU WANT TO RUN TO CHEF LOUIE’S FOR A STEAK, DOESN’T IT?

But, back to the kitsch!  The Mitchell Corn Palace was a big deal when Jerry was growing up.  He remembers going there with his entire family — his grandparents, parents, and sisters — in the early 1960s to see Lawrence Welk and his orchestra perform.  For my New York City family, The Lawrence Welk Show, was entertaining, but primarily as comic relief (my sister and I would imitate the singers and dancers), although he did admittedly retain very talented musicians.  For Jerry’s South Dakota family, Lawrence Welk and his “champagne music” were high art.  So, the idea that they were able to see Lawrence Welk perform live at the Corn Palace was very exciting.  Even more exciting for Jerry was the day during his junior high school years when Myron Floren, Lawrence Welk’s accordion player, came to Jerry’s church choir rehersal to perform.  So, as a little bonus, I thought I’d end with a video of Lawrence Welk with Myron Floren playing the Dakota Polka.

Golfing the Water Hazard

I don’t golf.  Jerry does; well, did.  There was a fairly large lake (aka water hazard) at Yale Golf Course that I remember Jerry talking about.  He said he would prefer to automatically take the penalty, walk around the lake, drop his ball on the ground, and continue playing rather than bother wasting his and everyone’s time — not to mention golf balls — popping balls into the water.  I apologize to golfers for my lack of correct terminology.  I don’t know if you even pop balls in golf (I know you can pop them in baseball).  I did, however, just look up the rules for golfing at a water hazard.  The rules state:  “When a ball is hit into a water hazard, the player may also drop a ball, behind the water hazard, on a line of sight between the hole and where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard (no closer to the hole), at a penalty of one stroke.”  This is one of many reasons I don’t play golf.
Anyway, a fellow golfer once suggested to Jerry that he just throw his ball across the lake, which had Jerry laughing since that would probably cost him even more strokes… and golf balls.

HILLSVIEW WATER HAZARD (FORMERLY HILLSVIEW GOLF COURSE), PIERRE, S. DAK.

We drove over today to see Pierre’s Hillsview Golf Course.  Hillsview is now basically one large water hazard.