Saturday night, as Minnesota school closings mounted and temperatures plummeted to record soul-killing sub-zero lows, I belted down some hot coffee, cursed both the darkness and the steady stream of friends’ Facebook photos coming in from San Francisco, Sun Set Beach, the Florida Keys, etc., said a prayer of gratitude for my warm home, friends and family, and took my own advice to seize the day and night and see what’s out there.
I’m glad I did. As I write, we are in hour 36 of Polar Vortex II and its minus 22 degrees and minus 29 wind chill, and as you read, the temperatures have already returned to a more livable clime with the promise of warmer days ahead. But before moving on, it’s worth noting that we’ve very likely just survived the worst of the historically brutal winter of 2014 and lived to tell.
Me, I wanted to stay close to home Saturday night, so with live music options like the Belfast Cowboys and the Current’s birthday party holding forth downtown, I stayed Uptown and found a corner by the door at the packed Cause Minneapolis, where for two hours, through the plate glass windows, I watched a brilliant streetlight-illuminated snowstorm fall on the equally packed intersection of Lake and Lyndale.
The storefronts — It’s Greek To Me, Falafel King, Metaphysical, Smitten Kitten — looked like they’d been ladled into a life-sized snow globe, and the glistening sheets of fluffy snow took on a magical quality, accompanied as they were by the super soulful soundtrack provided by a bunch of like-minded rock and alt-country musicians: Rich Mattson and Germaine Gemberling, who traveled from their arctic tundra home of Sparta, Minnesota for the gig; Lolo’s Ghost, whose leader James Loney endured some high drama in the making of a sale at his car sales job earlier in the day; and Dave Rave, the hard-touring Canadian rocker whose exuberance and rock ‘n’ roll heart can turn up the heat in even the coldest room.
Which is what Rave and his guitar army did early in their set, jumping out onto the freezing cement floor and coaxing the entire front of the room to crouch down, limbo-style, in some strange and spontaneous ritual of togetherness and rock that came together so effortlessly it felt choreographed. Fittingly, the Cause bill this frigid night was a make-up gig for a night that was cancelled in late June, when torrential rains and power outages downed trees all over Minneapolis and closed several bars in and around Uptown.
Not tonight. The human aquarium was a delight to behold throughout the night, from the hardy souls who came out of hibernation to feel the kick drum in their chests, to the undaunted and bundled-up crazies scurrying up and down the block, so timeless and innocent they could’ve been photos culled from Minnesota Historical Society archives. What’s more, the streets themselves bustled — snow and cold be damned — with cars, taxis, buses, and more than a few young couples out for a romantic snowy walk, many wearing the unmistakable expression of the drunk or recently well-loved.
For good measure, the next day I took the dog to Lake Harriet, that normally placid place of peace which upon arrival was being swept by high winds and snow and doing an excellent impression of Planet Hoth from Star Wars. Even the hardcore runners and walkers were bailing and running for cover, and after momentarily walking out on the ice, I recognized the furious force of the elements, knew I was in the eye of something dangerous, and got out of there.
Like I said, I’m glad I did. As with my night at Cause, I was happy to follow the call to experience something that a warm-weather vacation or hunkering down with blankets and books doesn’t afford. Sure, my favorite new-old mode of dealing with winter is the Danish concept hygge, which embraces winter via candles and coziness, but when you want to gauge the spirit of this city and its hardy, good-natured, and cabin-fever crazied people, there’s no substitute for venturing out.
In other words, see ya at the Loppet.