Searching for ‘real Minnesota’

I cringed a bit yesterday when I read the story of Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea’s greetings to Brainerd on Monday.

Gildea told a community dinner at Central Lakes College, “I’m so happy to be in real Minnesota…outside of the Twin Cities, in other words.”

It was almost as if she saw the future halfway through her sentence: an assertion that the Twin Cities aren’t the real Minnesota.

City Pages weighed in:

In fact, every part of Minnesota is real. Except the part with, like, the State Capitol, the professional sports teams, the enormous public university, the cool music scene, the nice restaurants and bars… none of that is real. Well, it’s real, but it’s not “Minnesota,” you know?

Let’s give the justice the benefit of the doubt and step back from the brink of secession.

When the people of Grand Avenue, to use just one example, object to chain stores taking over their street, what are they afraid of if not the possibility that the real Grand Avenue will be destroyed, replaced by a street that could be Anywhere USA?

Granted, this is harder to understand for Minnesota these days because we’ve been conditioned to accept the notion that when people think of us, they think, “really big shopping mall.” But it wasn’t always that way.

Isn’t the chief complaint of city slickers toward the suburbs, which are also part of the real Twin Cities, that they’re not real? And they’ve got a point. On the way to work today, I drove past the cookie-cutter homes of my neighborhood (built by the same company that builds the same models from here to Texas) , took a right at the shopping center that features a Target, a Kohl’s and an Applebee’s, got on an interstate, and drove into to a canyon of large buildings … all of which could’ve been anywhere.

Sure, I know it’s Minnesota. And the Twin Cities obviously have a lot to offer,but it’s undeniable that cities and their suburbs are quickly looking like everywhere else. It doesn’t make us bad people, it just makes us something other than unique. If we’re growing more and more like any other place — and being overly sensitive about innocuous comments is like any other place — how real Minnesota can we be?

You don’t find this in many places…

20110629 028 Paul Bunyan Rest Stop and Information Area for Brainerd - Trip to Crow Wing SP MN

And there’s only one real beginning of the Mississippi River…


And to many people who long for something other than sameness, that’s real, or at least more “real” than other places.

When you look for real Minnesota, where do you look?