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...
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...
Restaurant views and reflections: An essay by Jennifer Murray

Restaurant views and reflections: An essay by Jennifer Murray

One of my favorite moments while glancing out of the window during a busy night at work is when the sky is just darkening behind the old brick warehouse buildings of Lowertown and a final burst of sunshine breaks against the brick and windows creating a golden glow of buildings in front of the settling darkness. I have found that it’s usually pointless to try and point this out to my coworkers at Saint Dinette, because we’re often all too busy in the evening to appreciate anything beyond the bustle of the restaurant.  Which is a good thing: that bustle means we’re doing a good job, means people are flocking to a place that we love, eating the food that’s been made with so much care and inspiration that it boggles my mind, and appreciating the atmosphere that is fostered and inspired by the amazing people who own and run the restaurant. The view out of the window is an added bonus, even if it only provides a short moment to re-center myself, because sometimes it’s hard to be an introvert in a job that mainly attracts extroverts and requires sustained bursts of energy in a crowded room.   Sometimes I wonder how on earth I got here, nearly twelve years into restaurant work and finally in a job that I love on every single level. Not that I haven’t loved my previous jobs, but none have had so few negative qualities (Saint Dinette has none of note). Sometimes I wonder how I ever got into and stayed in this line of work.   I recall the views out...