My lucky 25: The year in Gratitude

Cutline: In March, MPR’s Cathy Wurzer interviewed the Dalai Lama at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Photo by Jim Walsh


“Be Unreasonably Grateful,” reads the coffee cup created by my friend and Mammaste founder Lori Ann Yang. Good advice in these daunting times, and I’m here to up the blessings-counting by doing what’s always worked for me: Writing ’em down and, dare I say, suggesting you do the same thing before the year’s out, in a parlor game we’ll call, per the 25 Things About Me exercise that blew up on Facebook in 2009, “My Lucky 25” (or 25 Things I Was Unreasonably Thankful For in 2014):

  1. Playing and watching basketball with my son. Watching my daughter play soccer and chilling with her after school to “Ellen.” Helping them navigate the world. Them helping me navigate the world. Hearing their amazing laughter, ideas and stories.
  2. My family, friends, strangers, you, and anyone and everyone who gave me wisdom, strength, encouragement, or grief about something I wrote or sang.
  3. Larry Sahagian. Sagahian is the tastemaking hero/booker of the Driftwood Char Bar, and my artist of the year — as illustrated by one indelible moment. At the Driftwood’s Bob Dylan birthday party in May, the sold-out crowd wasn’t sufficiently appreciative of the music, so Sahagian fell to his knees, batted balloons up in the air and pled, “C’mon, you guys!” That’s the kind of enthusiasm that gives sinew to a scene and makes a mom-and-pop music pub survive and thrive, and Larry Love brings it every week to the little groove factory on 44th and Nicollet.
  4. “Interstellar.” Especially the scene when Brand (Anne Hathaway) tells Cooper (Michael McConaughey), as they flirt and fight and founder and attempt to answer the biggest questions of the ages and cosmos with the fate of all humanity hanging in the balance: “Love isn’t something that we invented. It’s observable. Powerful. It has to mean something. Maybe it means something more, something we can’t yet understand. Maybe it’s some evidence, some artifact of a higher dimension that we can’t consciously perceive. Love is the one thing that we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space.”
  5. Studio 2, Common Grounds, and Five Watt. Neighborhood coffee shops that make even the most solitary scribe feel welcome and cozy.
  6. Meditation spots and mini urban retreats. They’re everywhere in this burg, but I’m thinking about the various banks of the Minnehaha Creek and Mississippi River, and Beards Plaisance and the Rose and Peace Gardens, and all the other found churches of the natural world.
  7. The Mad Ripple Hootenanny at Harriet Brewing. For 10 months every Thursday, we sang songs and told stories, and pretty much had the times of our lives. One memorable night I got to sing with my brothers in front of our parents, and every Thursday I walked out of that homegrown brew pub, looked up at the sky, and counted my lucky stars for allowing me to be part of something so musical and magical.
  8. Mac’s Fish and Chips. A real-deal neighborhood fish and chips joint right across the street from my old Catholic grade school taps deeply into my Irish roots and appreciation of good grease.
  9. Andrea Swensson, The Current. A singular voice amid the click-bait multitudes, she writes straight from the head and heart and attempts to reinvent the art of music journalism every time out. Along with Pat Reusse and Jon Tevlin, my favorite local writer.
  10. My photographer friends, professional and “amateur,” who have brightened up many a dark night of the soul or gray day with their visual reports from the front lines of life and glorious depictions of Mother Earth.
  11. Samantha Loesch and Molly Duffin, for giving the Kingfield neighborhood Kings Wine Bar, and turning the reins over to new owners in hopes the same corner-bistro vibe will continue.
  12. Zach Lavine and Andrew Wiggins. Teen Wolves on the precocious prowl, and a helluva lot of fun to watch and wonder about just how good they’ll be someday (soon).
  13. Various artists, “Music from the motion picture ‘Boyhood.’” The make-out road-trip mix tape of the summer, including Tweedy (“Summer Noon”), Wilco (“Hate It Here”), Cat Power (“Could We?”), and Family Of The Year (“Hero”). Several scenes and songs are framed by windshields, putting we the lucky moviegoers on the highways and dusty trails of Texas, and months after seeing it, the scene that’s stayed with me most is a widescreen feast of the Texas skyline at sunset as our young hero Mason drives off to college, his screwed-up but happy and loving family in his rearview mirror, and his new life, loves and creativity beckoning. Stunning.
  14. My mom, the best example of an all-loving liberal feminist Catholic I know, and my dad, old and out there and still the smartest guy in the room. Both are alive and well and for that I am and always will be grateful.
  15. Chrissie and Bob “Slim” Dunlap and family. As Slim enters his fourth bed-ridden year, his spirit remains robust and his love with and for his wife and primary caretaker Chrissie is an altogether miraculous, inspiring and hopeful thing to bear witness to.
  16. “True Detective” and “The Fall.” I binged on both during Polar Vortexes I and II, and had dreams of serial killers dancing in my head for much of the winter.
  17. Erik Koskinen, “America Theater,” Lucinda Williams, “Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone,” Ben Weaver, “I Wish I Was A Buffalo,” Louise Erdrich, “The Round House,” Richard Grant, “American Nomads,” Nicole Helget, “Stillwater.” Favorite long-play listens/reads of the year.
  18. The Dalai Lama at the Minneapolis Convention Center (March 1, Nobel Peace Prize Forum). Sat a few feet away from the impish wise man as he was being interviewed, and shook his hand as he left the stage… so I got that going for me.
  19. Our dog, Zero. Ten years old this month and still running/humping wild like a puppy. Sometimes, as he gazes off into the horizon, his regal beagle profile recalls something John O’Donohue wrote in “Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World”: “Animals are our ancient brothers and sisters. They enjoy a seamless presence — a lyrical unity with the earth. Animals live outside in the wind, in the waters, in the mountains, and in the clay. The knowing of the earth is in them. The Zen-like silence and thereness of the landscape is mirrored in the silence and solitude of animals. Animals know nothing of Freud, Jesus, Buddha, Wall Street, the Pentagon, or the Vatican. They live outside the politics of human intention. Somehow they already inhabit the eternal.”
  20. The World Cup. Easily the most galvanizing and unifying spectator sports event of the year.
  21. Tiger Lion Arts, “Nature: A Walking Play.” On a glorious sun-dappled fall day, I traipsed around the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum with a couple hundred others who took in the words and ideas of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Sequestered from our own techno lives and co-starring squirrels, geese, and autumn’s flora and fauna, this was a transcendental trip that not even Emerson could have imagined when he eulogized Thoreau at the end of the play with, “He had a short life exhausted by the capabilities of this world; wherever there is knowledge, wherever there is virtue, wherever there is beauty, he will find a home.”
  22. St. Dominic’s Trio/The Belfast Cowboys. My bad-ass brother’s bands embody everything that’s great about local music: Passion, guts, great songs and players, and a friendly, easily-accessible rock & roll community. Watching my bro go through a tough year of growth and seeing him boldly thrive and survive on stage and in song was as inspiring as it was edifying: These guys saved me a couple nights this year, and made me glad to be alive and not alone.
  23. “Serial” on National Public Radio. Crisp writing and in-depth journalism, with a fast-growing popularity that bodes well for lovers of long-form storytelling.
  24. First Avenue/7th Street Entry. I saw so many great shows there this year, and sang on stage with my daughter, brother, and friends at the Slim Hoot, and it hit me during one of the last shows of the year, the fact that I’ve spent more meaningful moments — of transcendence, growth, fun, and learning — than any other room on the planet.
  25. Editor Sarah McKenzie and this good ol’ neighborhood newspaper. In a 24-7 media storm, the Journal does newspapering the old-fashioned way — by bringing homegrown local stories and news events to doorsteps all across South Minneapolis. Good reporters, good stories, good work. Long may we run.


Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet. He can be reached at [email protected]