My mom is still stronger than cancer, even though it killed her

My mom is still stronger than cancer, even though it killed her

Cancer is an uninvited guest, a dark shadow on a sunny day, a trick, a pointedly mean joke without punchline or retribution. It inspires sympathetic head-shakes and hugs from those who might understand or think they do. Everyone, it seems, knows someone who has battled cancer. Or at least knows someone who knows someone who has battled cancer (win or lose). Or someone that is currently in the fight. And what is left behind.   Of life and death  The room is a warm and steady 72 degrees. It doesn’t change much. In the hallway, the bustle of doctors and nurses in scrubs and white coats. We are at Regions Hospital in downtown St. Paul. The plants are plastic: living things are harmful. But there is still life here, watching my mother dance around the room in a hospital gown to music I play for her. The windows can’t be opened but sunlight is streaming through the pane with warmth as real as the summer outside. But things are different inside than outside. Inside, cut off from the melange of cars and people that cris-cross through downtown streets. From their lives and stories. This was 2004, a decade before the Light Rail first passed in front of the hospital. She would have been excited about that. It’s hard to write a story like this without coming across as sob (or looking for sympathy). As I write this, my neighbor’s dog is chasing a rabbit from the yard, barking, soon to be covered in dirt and mud, blissfully unaware of the emotional trials of humans. The dog does not offer sympathy, only support;...
Defining a city by its food: 17 truly St. Paul dishes

Defining a city by its food: 17 truly St. Paul dishes

Much poetry has been written as an ode to the city; the place where we were born and/or raised, that has shaped us. Poetry, pictures, paintings and films. We look for these things and as the arts they help us to define ourselves as they define the world around us. However, as the “roving gourmand” Jim Harrison states plainly, “How feebly the arts compete with the idea of what we are going to eat next.” Isn’t it true that a good meal trumps all else? That the Mona Lisa cannot truly be enjoyed on an empty stomach? That we will walk out of an Oscar-worthy film to satiate a begging appetite? That we cannot read, or write, or dream, or laugh when hunger pangs beg the largest question of them all: Who am I, if not someone who needs to eat? So then we define the city by its food. It’s step one, maybe, the base (cornerstone) of how to describe the landscape. We start here. But then we ask what kind of food culture can be created when a city’s identity is changing; when people are moving in, and out, of its borders at a rapid pace? Regardless of what the landscape will look like in 5, 10, 20 years or more, these dishes remain truly representative of the Capital City’s soul. It’s core. And they will keep us fed today so that we may go on and enjoy everything else she has to offer.   17 dishes that define St. Paul Pelmeni at Moscow on the Hill These dumplings are simple. They are delicious. As a happy hour...
Minnesota vs. Donald Trump: Our shaky relationship with POTUS

Minnesota vs. Donald Trump: Our shaky relationship with POTUS

After Minnesota put Trump in third place on Super Tuesday, it was clear that the relationship between our fair state and the future president wasn’t going to be defined by sunshine and roses. Then Trump, on one of his final campaign stops, criticized our East African community. He made unverifiable claims about Minnesota’s immigrant population from an airport hangar at MSP. He barely set foot in the state, and he certainly didn’t stop to eat at Fasika (which should be enough to change anyone’s mind on the issue). We Minnesotans were none too pleased. Now that Trump is officially President of the United States, it’s clear that things aren’t going to get any better. Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges has defied Trump’s authoritarian order on sanctuary cities, as was reported by MPR 1/25/17. Minneapolis won’t drop its policy that blocks police from reporting immigration violations. And then from St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman across the river, “Not only has our current police chief, but police chiefs past, and police chiefs across the country have made it very clear that they need to be able to build trusting relationships in immigrant communities,” he said. “We have the ability to make those determinations on a local level.” And why do we use the word “authoritarian?” Certainly not to be biased; not to join the ranks of media dismissed by Trump, and certainly not to use something the current administration likes to call “alternative facts.” It comes from another article, written by longtime Minnesota Public Radio correspondent Frank Langfitt, about the anti-information tactics of Donald Trump and co. The “Counselor to the President of the United...
Thank you, mom

Thank you, mom

The first thing I knew about my mom was that she loved the countryside; fields of grass and flowers in the summer and white snow in the winter. The second thing I learned about my mom was that her patience was as long as the Mississippi River, was as wide as the Grand Canyon, was as deep as the Pacific Ocean. But when it was gone it was gone and not coming back. Thank you for loving me when I know it was difficult so do so. I got sick a lot. I would stay home from school. Physically sick, or just sick of all the finger-pointing, teasing classmates that took so much time out of their day to make other kids miserable. Thank you for taking care of me when I was sick, even (or especially) the times I didn’t have a fever. And thank you for taking care of me, but also for not taking care of me when it was time to stand on my own two feet. You knew as well as I should have that you weren’t always going to be there to pick me up, so thank you for giving me two feet to stand on and carry me when you couldn’t. What I never learned about my mom was what she gave up to have me. To make me. To create me practically out of thin air, like magic, like nothing. I never learned that she dropped out of college to give me a life. That she quit her degree in biology to create mine. That I became her life in a...
Everything is PLNT BSD

Everything is PLNT BSD

We have become more aware of what we eat, where it comes from, and why that matters, than ever before. But if that is how we treat our food, isn’t that how we should treat everything? If you care what you put in your body, shouldn’t you care what you put on your body? That’s the idea behind PLNT BSD, the brainchild of local designer Caroline Yares. The company produces clothes; T-shirts, hoodies, hats, tote bags, and more, made from vegan and plant-based materials. But it’s more than just vegan, more than just the latest trend. It’s a movement that seeks to bring awareness about what plant-based actually means for the world, for the community, and for you. We chatted with Yares to learn a little bit more about the company, her goals and mission, and the plant-based philosophy behind it all. A plant-based mission Big ideas often come from humble beginnings. Apple started in a two-car garage. Starbucks began by just selling beans. And PLNT BSD started with… day drinking? “To be honest, my husband and I were out in the backyard with our chickens, Gretta and Bessie, having a weekend margarita.” Yares laughs. “I told him I wanted a license plate that said PLNT BSD. We talked back and forth about different ideas. I said what about a T-shirt? So we made one about a week later.” And it took off from there. “We attended a few events around town and were shocked to see the response from the community. People wanted PLNT BSD shirts. So we gave the people what that wanted and started PLNT BSD as LLC and...
Confessions of a TC drug dealer

Confessions of a TC drug dealer

A “drug” can mean anything from prescription painkillers to meth made in country labs. But we all know what they mean when they talk about the War on Drugs. The lack of work right out of high school (or college for that matter) has left many Americans looking for alternative means of income. Sometimes those means don’t fit inside the confines of the law. Some might call it a product of an unfair system, the result of a world we didn’t create. Others might say it’s purely opportunistic, preying on addiction and an at-risk population. Regardless, Teddy** always knew he deserved a better life, and that no one was going to hand it to him. Success is attainable in many different ways for many different people. Right or wrong, this is what he has to say. **Name has been changed. We’re not messing around with that drug war.   The confessions of a Twin Cities drug dealer The beginning How did it start? Start? Selling. It didn’t really start. It was always an option, more about when than if. When you were a kid… Yeah I started selling weed in junior high. Bricks of midgrade all full of seeds and shit. I didn’t tell my mom where I got the money, and I didn’t spend it on stupid stuff. I saved it. I had a box in the back of the closet and I kept my room clean so that she never had a reason to go in there. I was saving up. For what? Just the future man. I’ve always known that no one was going to give me...