I was at an event at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis the other day. I was a guest of my friend whose house was being featured by AIA Minnesota, so I was just there to enjoy myself and watch a program about houses and design. As we were chatting with other attendees, my friend referenced me when talking about the Swedish Institute. He said, “She belongs here.” They were just a few words, but they really tickled me. He meant that I’m a member of the American Swedish Institute; my friend is familiar with my membership because I often bring him to events there. But do I “belong?” Yes. I think I belong there. They’re my people and I find myself in many of the enriching programs they bring to their members.
When thinking about this sports and fitness issue, it’s clear that people belong to teams. People belong to this community. People belong to each other. Membership matters. But not all membership looks the same. By going inside The Saint Paul Athletic Club, you’ll see what awaits you as a member who belongs. You’ll read about how cyclist Pamela Gonzales might be grinding gravel in northern Minnesota as an individual, but everyone who participates in a particular event is looking out for each other. Weightlifter Jackie Gleason lifts a certain amount of weight by herself, but she’s training and being spotted and supported by a small village of people. The Stonewall Kickball team is very clear in their league profile that there’s something for everyone to do as a member of their league, from playing to sitting on the bench or helping in some other way. And then there’s a whole directory of sports leagues and teams in this issue that lays out who is doing what and when, so you can consider joining them.
It’s more than sports and fitness. Yes, there are organized games and practices. There is strategy. There are roles. There are rules. And there is also the feeling that comes along with working toward a goal. The rush of achieving something with other people. When I sing in a choir, there’s nothing I love more than rehearsing something in parts and then hearing us put it together as a whole. What a natural high. In sports and fitness, there is exertion and coordination, not to mention skills that you can teach as well as learn. I recently figured out that I shy away from doing things that are hard or unfamiliar, because that puts them in a negative light for me. That I should know how to do a triple lutz in ice skates or I shouldn’t bother trying. Nonsense. The people in this issue are proof that you can join in and start wherever you are; a newcomer or a polished athlete.
And, just like in this community, you will belong.
In the past year, we’ve had a whole lot of turnover in the Twin Cities dining scene. Here is a fairly comprehensive list of the restaurants that have opened (or reopened as a new venture) as well as a few we can look forward to opening soon.
510 Lounge & Private Dining
Opening in the summer, the former La Belle Vie space will be reopened by Chef Don Saunders of The Kenwood. The Kenwood has smart design with great service and delicious food; I’m looking forward to seeing what transpires in this famous space. 510 Groveland Ave., Minneapolis www.510mpls.com
Augustine’s Bar & Bakery
A quiet opening last fall in an unassuming area of St. Paul, this bakery and restaurant on Selby by the same folks at The Happy Gnome is a welcome addition. The palm-festooned walls are welcoming, the drinks have been strong, and the Merguez sausage mac & cheese is so loaded as to be considered a casserole. Delish. 1668 Selby Ave., St. Paul www.augustinesmn.com
Bad Waitress Northeast
Just like its original iteration on Nicollet, this new addition to the hopping ‘hood in Nordeast Minneapolis has nonexistent day service, which means you get to fill out your own ticket and be your own server. It’s fun, it’s cheeky, and this new space is downright gorgeous. Night turns to full-service and the menu expands from breakfast to include bar “snackies.” 700 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis www.thebadwaitress.com
Just opened a few weeks ago, Billy Tserenbat, the guy who brought Sushi Fix to Wayzata, is shaking up the lakeside town with some south-of-the-border food and drinks. For fun foods and tequila to tip, add this to your summer destination list. 830 Lake St. E, Wayzata www.bajahaus.com
J.D. Fratzke of The Strip Club Meat & Fish fame teamed up with Matty O’Reilly of Republic fame last year to open Red River Kitchen, and now brought us Bar Brigade which opened in the Luci Ristorante space at Cleveland and Randolph in St. Paul in March. A 40-seat space that’s been spruced up for French fare, the food is accompanied by a bar program put together by Tattersall’s Dan Oskey. 2060 Randolph Ave., St. Paul www.barbrigade.com
Another lovely new restaurant to open in Wayzata is Chef Gavin Kaysen’s Bellecour. Fight for your reservations in these early months or go to the bakery like I did for a slice of some of pastry chef Diane Yang’s crepe cake that always brings me joy. Or do both. And grab some baked goods to go. That’s my plan for both immediate and delayed gratification.
739 Lake St. E, Wayzata www.bellecourrestaurant.com
Chef Laura Bonicelli has turned a fresh meal delivery business into a brick-and-mortar restaurant with wine and beer. For the past nine years, people have been eating up her fine Italian meals. Now there’s a restaurant in which she makes every meal an experience to remember. 1839 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis www.bonicellikitchen.com
Opened on Valentine’s Day, Bottle Rocket in St. Paul brings us back to a time when we “played more, relaxed often, and worried less.” With a whole new branding and look, a menu of classics, and a kicked-up cocktail list, this space at St. Clair and Fairview that formerly housed Scusi is a new addition to the Blue Plate Restaurant Company family. 1806 St. Clair Ave. S, St. Paul www.bottlerocketmn.com
Brake Bread Bakery
You may have seen or read about these guys in various media outlets as the bakery that delivers their subscription-based bread orders to its customers via bikes. So successful was this venture, Nate Houge and Micah Taylor of Brake Bread opened their own “brakery” in their beloved West End neighborhood of St. Paul where they also offer toast with plenty of toppings, cookies, coffee, and pastries. I recommend the cardamom twist. And I do not recommend taking the toast with Nutella to go because it’s too delicious a mess to handle as the Nutella melts while driving home. 1174 7th St. W, St. Paul www.brakebread.com
Bull’s Horn Food & Drink
Bull’s Horn Food & Drink is causing a fair bit of buzz. Chef Doug Flicker of Piccolo and Esker Grove, with his wife, Amy Greeley who also paired up with him on Sandcastle at Lake Nokomis, have purchased the Sunrise Inn in South Minneapolis to give us something new to celebrate as Piccolo has closed. We’ll stay tuned for more details on this sure-to-be gem. 4563 S 34th Ave., Minneapolis
Restaurant and Cafe Alma
Restaurant Alma by Chef Alex Roberts closed for a stint to renovate and reopen as an Alma that includes a restaurant, café, and an intimate hotel. The design is swoon-worthy, the food is now available beyond what their former hours and bakery pop-ups had been, and we are thrilled to see such an evolution in this vibrant urban Minneapolis location. 528 University Ave. SE, Minneapolis www.almampls.com
Nestled (get it? nest?) between his Upton 43 restaurant and Rose Street Patisserie in Linden Hills, Chef Erick Harcey has a grab-and-go chicken restaurant called The Dirty Bird. Take it from me, it’s a snap to order some chicken and sides (don’t forget the carrots…they’re stupid-good), grab a dessert from Rose Street to go, and then sit at the bar at Upton 43 for a drink while the food’s being prepared before taking your bundle of yum off to Lake Harriet for a picnic. 4312 Upton Ave. S, Minneapolis www.dirtybirdmn.com
A place where I’ve spent many a night listening to Irish music, we can now grab some breakfast grub in the adjacent café space (which has been refurbished to the point of gleaming wood and vintage fixtures to beat all) or later-day eats in the bar, itself. I’ve had some great later-evening meals of sandwiches and burgers in the glow of the dart boards and neon ACE BAR sign at this old neighborhood steady on St. Paul’s University Avenue. 2162 University Ave., St. Paul www.thedublinerpub.com
Erik the Red
Erik Forsberg opened up a Downtown Minneapolis eatery with Carolina barbecue and Nordic foods…which might be a marriage with a name change of Minnesota Barbecue. In the former Hubert’s space on Chicago Avenue, there are smorgasbords and smoked meats including slab bacon, turkey legs, short ribs, brisket, salmon, and lamb. I’ve got my eye on some mac & cheese and a lefse wrap. 601 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis www.eriktheredbar.com
Esker Grove is the Walker Art Center’s new restaurant, led by chef Doug Flicker and inspired by seasonal ingredients. The space is stunning, the food is gorgeous, and it’s a 2017 James Beard Foundation Semifinalist for Best New Restaurant. 723 Vineland Place, Minneapolis www.eskergrove.com
I wrote my ode to this redux of The Salt Cellar concept on Cathedral Hill last year; it’s a place for all-day lounging, eating, and drinking. Chef Graham Messenger has pizzas, sandwiches, and entrées as well as a breakfast sandwich that’ll make me settle in for a long while. Grab a drink, watch a game, and be as leisurely as F. Scott Fitzgerald was when he was known simply as “Scott.” 173 Western Ave. N, St. Paul www.fitzgeraldsstpaul.com
Glam Doll Donuts — NE Minneapolis
Glam Doll Donuts first opened on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis in 2013, serving up donuts to dough-lovers morning, noon, and night. Now, at this new location on Central in Nordeast Minneapolis, we can not only get the diverse and delectable doughy treats we’ve come to know and love, but there are also a few savories available such as the “Belly Bomb,” which is a mac & cheese donut. Take it from me, this is worth the buzz. It’s got cheesy flavor and macaroni texture with a crunchy crust that’ll bring you back again and again. 519 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis www.glamdolldonuts.com
Herbie’s on the Park
If you have seen the sculpture of Herb Brooks by the Ordway, overseeing all the action in Rice Park in St. Paul, you’ll be able to find the new restaurant in the Minnesota Club, Herbie’s on the Park. It’s a social house with tavern fare and handcrafted cocktails perfect for the game or theater crowd. 317 Washington St., St. Paul www.herbiesonthepark.com
Hi-Lo Diner, a retro diner on Lake Street in Minneapolis, is the place to find whimsical food envisioned anew as well as pulled from days of yore by Chef Heidi Marsh, with cocktails to beat the old grasshoppers of yesteryear. I’m a sucker for the Hi-Tops of donut discs with various toppings, not to mention they’ve got a killer burger. 4020 E Lake St., Minneapolis www.hi-lo-diner.com
Jefe: Urban Hacienda
I have fond memories of walking along the riverfront in Minneapolis, getting hangrier and hangrier by the moment late last summer. Walking into Jefe for some Mexican street food and double-fisting some pineapple sodas as we waited for a table was the perfect salve for my hungry soul. 219 Main St. SE, Minneapolis www.jefeminneapolis.com
JUN is exactly what the North Loop in Minneapolis needed: a Chinese restaurant where I’d rather eat-in than take-out. It’s a rare combination to find these days, but Jack Wang and Jessie Wong have created a gorgeous restaurant with respectable bar program to match their top-notch food. The pork-filled bao bao steamed buns and the scratch-made noodles that grace many of the entrées are superb, my favorites being the beef chow fun and spicy Sichuan dumplings. 730 N Washington Ave., Minneapolis www.junnorthloop.com
Kata Organic Cafe & Fitness Boutique
I’m not someone who gravitates to a place that advertises a fitness boutique with food attached, but let me assure you that this lovely casual restaurant in Linden Hills puts no pressure on to work off what we take in. The menu is more than spa food, the cookies are cheap, and I love having a walk-up option in one of the hotter food neighborhoods that is high-quality without too fancy a package. While there’s plenty to be enjoyed in the colder months at Kata, sidewalk dining has been divine, so I can’t wait to get out there again this season. 4279 Sheridan Ave. S, Minneapolis www.katacafefitness.com
There’s a whole lot going on in the newly named East Town neighborhood of Downtown Minneapolis; not just the big Vikings stadium, but also great new eateries like McKinney Roe at ground level of the Wells Fargo tower. There’s a two-story dining room and expansive patio with food for a business meal, a special occasion, or as casual as a happy hour. 530 4th St., Minneapolis www.mckinneyroe.com
Mercado by Earl Giles
Uptown’s got a new taco spot with both coffee and cocktails to boot at 29th and Lyndale. Mercado by Earl Giles has taken over the space formerly occupied by Marche and is accessible by foot, bus, car, and bike…thanks to its location overlooking the Greenway. 2904 Lyndale Ave. S, Minneapolis www.facebook.com/MercadobyEarlGiles
Mercury Dining Room and Rail
Mercury Dining Room and Rail is a gorgeous new offering by the Blue Plate Restaurant Company in the space previously occupied by Brasserie Zentral in the Soo Line Building in Downtown Minneapolis. A longer bar, a lovely space, a delicious pimento cheese toast appetizer…and an event space (with a killer roof) called Shindig are just a few of the features that make this hotspot a must-stop. 505 Marquette Ave. S, Minneapolis www.mercurympls.com
I just attended the opening of this new restaurant and I can say that it breathed life anew into the former Marin space on Hennepin Avenue. Mercy is a revamp in look, feel, taste, and experience, headed up by Chef Mike Rakun. It’s another design by Shea that accomplishes more warmth and comfort in the upper level of the space as has been so loved in the Library Bar in the lower level…and the food and drink are just as comfy. 901 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis www.mercympls.com
Chefs Tyge Nelson (La Belle Vie, the Inn, Chino Latino) and Stephan Hesse (Masu, Libertine) have flipped the old Glockenspiel on West 7th in St. Paul into a destination for upscale Mexican food. The space is open and airy, the “elote style” Brussels sprouts make me smile, the tacos and meats are savory with just enough spice, and the queso fundido is the most simple-but-ridiculously-delicious reason I’ll be heading there with frequency. 605 7th St., St. Paul www.pajaritostp.com
A fine-casual Japanese restaurant, PinKU is giving street food some flair. A smaller menu is offered from an open kitchen where what you see is what you get…and you get some good stuff. Fresh, time-tested, delicious. 20 University Ave., Minneapolis www.pinkujapanese.com
Popol Vuh & Central
Popol Vuh and Central are the two parts of a duo-restaurant concept being headed up by Lyn 65’s team. Chef Jose Alarcon Popol Vuh will be cooking Mayan cuisine and Central will be a counter-service taqueria. 712 15th Ave. NE, Minneapolis www.popolvuhmpls.com
Punch Bowl Social
I don’t know if it’s the confit ribs or the pimento sandwiches that got me, but I’m in for this place, hook, line, and sinker. Even the hummus hits me just right. The West End place in St. Louis Park is abuzz with people playing games, bowling, eating, and getting their drink on, while also playing host to families and a superb non-alcoholic menu. Cardamom simple syrup is my kryptonite thanks to Punch Bowl Social. 1691 Park Place Blvd., St. Louis Park www.punchbowlsocial.com/location/minneapolis
Randle’s Restaurant & Bar
Randle’s Restaurant & Bar has taken over the former Ling & Louie’s location on Nicollet Mall in Downtown Minneapolis, named after the legendary Minnesota Viking’s defensive tackle, John Randle. Four floors of upscale sports bar and restaurant, you’ll find what you want at Randle’s. 921 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis www.johnrandles.com
One of the hottest spots to open on Washington Avenue lately, Red Rabbit is a hit with pizza, pasta, and oysters. Brought to us by Luke Shimp of the Red Cow restaurants, it’s more of what he does so well: comfortable sophistication. 201 N Washington Ave., Minneapolis www.redrabbitmn.com
Red River Kitchen
As a hybrid of food trucks, a brick-and-mortar seasonally open location at City House in St. Paul, and a great view on the Mississippi, Red River Kitchen at City House opened last summer to great applause. With J.D. Fratzke and Matty O’Reilly, there’s a winning team at the helm. Be sure to get over there as the weather turns warm for this season’s offerings, or catch a truck out and about. 258 Mill St., St. Paul www.redriverkitchen.com
Revival St. Paul
Oh, Revival. You crossed the river and we all rejoiced. Not only does having a Revival in St. Paul (maybe) release the pressure valve for getting into the Minneapolis location, but there’s a more extensive menu (and takeout) in St. Paul as well as a bar with the full liquor offerings. I mean, I know I’m a St. Paul gal so I’m biased, but I think we won this round. In addition to the usual award-winning fried chicken, burgers, and sides, there are butter barbecue ribs here. Butterscotch pie. Pork belly like butter. Blessed be Chef Thomas Boemer and co-owner Nick Rancone. 525 Selby Ave., St. Paul www.revivalfriedchicken.com
Rose Street Patisserie
John Kraus not only gave us Patisserie 46 in South Minneapolis, but he also opened up this Linden Hills stunner to rave reviews. While I go in there and ogle the architectural desserts and usually take some of them home (as well as macarons and the melt-in-your-mouth brownies), I’m also a fan of grabbing a quick lunch of a grilled cheese and side salad. Whereas Patisserie 46 is more hustle-and-bustle in close quarters, this location is full of space and air and light. My favorites. 2811 W 43rd St., Minneapolis www.patisserie46.com/menu_item/rose-street
Shake Shack Mall of America
In a gorgeous new food court at the Mall of America, this northern version of Shake Shack gives us burgers, fries, and all the fixings that have been loved for a long time in other locales around the country (and the world). I fell in love with a miso caramel malt from the get-go. 332 North Garden at the Mall of America, Bloomington www.shakeshack.com/location/mall-of-america
Spitz brings Mediterranean street food to East Hennepin in Minneapolis. Similar to gyro, al pastor, and shawarma meat, döner kebab is a type of meat that is cooked on a vertical rotisserie and it reigns supreme at Spitz. Have it done a variety of ways, check out some kick-ass art on the walls, listen to some tunes, and grab some craft beer. 518 E Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis www.spitzmn.com
Stewart’s is a revamp of 128 Cafe near St. Thomas in St. Paul, with new menu items and a more prominent bar. Still serving up classic food for brunch, lunch, and dinner, the cocktails are also getting their due attention. I’m a fan of the steak tips, myself, but can find just about anything on the menu to please my palate. 128 Cleveland Ave., St. Paul www.stewartsminnesota.com
Tenant is a restaurant by chefs Cameron Cecchini and Grisha Hammes that’s planned to open in the old Piccolo space in South Minneapolis with very few seats and an ever-changing menu. 4300 Bryant Ave. S, Minneapolis www.tenantmpls.com
Revived by Josh Thoma, Jack Riebel, and Kevin Fitzgerald, The Lexington’s lights are back on, the kitchen is providing food for the well-dressed masses, and the staid and steady bar is serving up drinks for tippling. It’s a dinner club for Grand Avenue in St. Paul, with a throwback menu of names that include Diane, Gorbachev, and Stroganoff with plenty of steaks and even some liver and onions if you so choose. 1096 Grand Ave., St. Paul www.thelexmn.com
Town Talk Diner & Gastropub
Town Talk Diner has taken on a new flavor under new ownership, focusing on a gastropub/modern American eatery menu. Located on Lake Street in Minneapolis, the lights of the iconic sign beckon diners to come inside for dinner or Sunday brunch made with locally sourced ingredients for a farm-to-table experience. 2707 E Lake St., Minneapolis www.towntalkmpls.com
Tullibee is a design-centric restaurant in the Hewing Hotel on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis. Still finding its footing in the food world here, the kitchen will be handed over from Grae Nonas to Bradley Day and will still feature Nordic food and sensibilities. As for me, I love to drink in the ambience. As I sip a pint glass of coffee wrapped in a Faribault Woolen Mill Co. coffee sleeve. 300 Washington Ave. N, Minneapolis www.hewinghotel.com
Okay, this is less about food as it is about a whole lot of drinks and over 60 beers on tap with a fantastic number of 50 arcade games from my childhood. Take my word for it that it’s a great first date locale. Sure, there’s pizza with unique toppings, but there’s also skee ball. Hold my drink. 3012 Lyndale Ave. S, Minneapolis www.updownmpls.com
Located at 56th and Chicago in South Minneapolis, Xavi is a triumphant addition to the quiet neighborhood. When I can roll home happy and fed after just enjoying the pork belly appetizer, don’t even get me started about how pleased I was by the red curry braised short rib…and the almond cake that I got to go. Chef Michael Agan and front-of-house expert James Elm have a beauty of a spot at Xavi. 5607 Chicago Ave. S, Minneapolis
Believe all the good things you’ve heard and read about Young Joni. Ann Kim and Conrad Leifur of Pizzeria Lola and Hello Pizza, with their skilled staff, have done everything right at this new beautiful restaurant. There’s a speakeasy bar around back that is separate from the restaurant and a bit difficult to find, but it’s worth the hunt with a bar menu that differs from that in the restaurant. And then, if you can figure out how to get in the glass doors of the restaurant (I seem plagued by the doors of this place), find yourself the dry and canny server who made us laugh so hard and take all of her advice as to what to order. I know that the La Parisienne pizza with prosciutto, Gruyere, ricotta, brown butter, caramelized onion, and arugula will be the friend I go back to visit time and again…followed up with a platter of the Church Basement Cookie and Bar Plate with the best Special K bars ever. 165 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis www.youngjoni.com
Where did you grow up? The Redneck Riviera: a small beach town in Florida called Fort Walton Beach.
Where do you live? I’m an Uptown girl…Minneapolis.
Who do you live with? This hook-up from four years ago that won’t leave. Plus two dogs. And a Fox.
What is your occupation? Hair and makeup designer at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, wig technician at the Guthrie Theater, and an independent hair and makeup designer at various theaters.
When did you come out? At the age of 16.
How’d that go? My mother was fairly accepting. I told my father that it took me 16 years to deal with it, so he had 16 years to get over it. Then I never wanted to hear another word after that. And…he did.
When do you wake up? In a perfect world: noon. In reality: 8:00 a.m.
Phone alarm or alarm clock? Phone alarm…five alarms with an hour of snoozing.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning? Take the dogs out, question why I live where it’s cold, and tip-toe around my partner who really gets to sleep until noon.
Breakfast? Sure…you buying?
Coffee? I start every morning with a wonderful cup of coffee at Twin Cities Leather (shameless plug for my partner who sleeps until noon).
Cream or no? Cream and honey.
How do you spend your commute: Not sure, I just zone out…then wake up and I’m there.
If your job were like a yearbook, what would you be voted? I really was voted “most likely to succeed” in high school. Today, “most likely to break out in song and dance.”
What inspires you? Talent. I admire people who pursue their craft…there is no small role in theater.
Do you eat your lunch while working or take a break? While working. Who has time for a break? Especially after all my songs and dance numbers.
Is your work space tidy or a hot mess? Please. “Hot mess” is an understatement. I literally have things scattered all over the metro and in my car.
What’s been your favorite job? I toured the country with numerous national tours of Broadway shows for almost eight years. Of that, La Cage Aux Folles was my favorite. Gay men, drag queens, and 1970s hair — what more could you want?
Who are your heroes? Anyone who pursues their dream in the arts when they were told their whole life it was only a hobby.
Favorite weeknight meal: Go out, take out, or cook in? Cook in. The only reason I let my partner sleep in is because he’s a fabulous cook and I come home to great meals.
Most embarrassing moment: When female actresses realize I get embarrassed by boobies while changing their wigs and costumes. It then becomes a teasing free-for-all.
On a usual weeknight, you are doing what? Getting everyone ready for a show. Taking on and off sweaty wigs. Making sure everyone looks good going on stage.
Bedtime: Usually between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m., after winding down from work.
Favorite weekend activity: Haha, what’s a weekend? I work when everyone else is having fun…and am free while you’re in a cubicle.
Words of wisdom to share: I started out in this business as a dancer and was badly injured very young. I thought my career in this industry was over. I was later given the chance to go backstage and work. I found a new way to be involved in this industry that I love. I’ve achieved more success this way and feed my passions. My advice is not to become so focused on a single path that you miss opportunities to still achieve your goals, and then fail to realize your dreams.
When I look back at 2017, I know that it will be far from a golden year. There will be no rose-colored glasses or waxing poetic over these first few months. But, what I hope I will see is how life found ways to be vibrant and hopeful in different ways. Something that is particularly apropos for a restaurant issue is how food can bring us together for safety, security, meaningful conversations, and just sitting in silence…chewing. We are very familiar with going to eat at fundraising dinners where the food is similar, the tables are sold, and the speakers are supposed to rile us up to make change and give money. But how about inviting people over for a potluck, having quiet conversation while passing dishes, and putting out jars for free-will offerings for various organizations?
That’s what I’ve found to be feeding my soul these first months of 2017. I’m feeling fortified. And that is the point of hosting or attending a Fortify potluck: it’s about feeding the greater good. The concept came from my friend, Joy Summers, who’s written for us over the years and is currently found at Eater Twin Cities, Minnesota Monthly, and various television shows like Twin Cities Live. As an answer to feeling more helpless than hopeful, she came up with the idea of people inviting friends and coworkers and family members over for a potluck dinner. While her house has the capacity for about 20 people, she hosted at least double that with a whole lot of kids running and screaming and having a good time. When it’s potluck, nobody foots the bill of providing food for all, yet there is always more than enough food to go around. There was a pile of nonperishables to take to the food shelf and three jars of money to give to different nonprofits that could use some help right about now.
So, my part in this will be attending as many Fortify potlucks as I can, digging deep into the couch cushions and cupboards for money to donate and food to send to the food shelf, and hosting one myself. Last year for my birthday, I held a birthday dinner at a Dining Out for Life restaurant, since my big day usually falls on or near that big day. But this year, I’m hosting my big 4-0 at my place and it’ll be potluck…with jars for contributing money for various nonprofits as well as a long table where we can all gather, find hope, and be fortified.
I’ll still be Dining Out for Life as I do every year. I hope to see you out there as well. Find each other, gather around food, help those who need it, and realize that we all might need it, too, in some way, shape, or form.
Though I’m turning 40 next month and I’ve yet to marry, this is the 12th wedding issue I’ve produced. In a matter of no time, I could pretty much throw together a March Madness bracket’s worth of wedding vendor dream teams for your special day, depending on what you’re looking for, where, and when. Or two brackets. Or three. We have so many talented vendors and unique venues that it’s a snap to come up with a whole lot of people and businesses to make your wedding exactly what you want it to be, done your way.
When I became editor of Lavender in 2011, we reorganized the website and magazine with new categories. Things became more personal by putting “Our” in front of the various sections. “Our Lives,” “Our Scene,” “Our Causes,” “Our Homes,” and so many other ways to indicate that we’re in this together. This community has a membership full of people that are accountable to each other due to shared circumstances and experiences. And, as a community that’s moved from the fringe to the center with the legalization of same-sex marriage, it’s a community that has always celebrated our weddings “our way.” There were no examples out there for same-sex weddings. The pioneers who married each other before it was legal (or when it was legal in only certain states) did so with opposite-sex weddings as the standard, but really did it their own way as trailblazers. They gave us templates to use for weddings ever since, as do the people in these pages.
Such lovely people, such lovely weddings. And they did it their own way too. To give you a few things to think about, we’ve got E.B. Boatner considering whether or not to marry as an older person in 2017, Shane Lueck reporting on what’s trendy for wedding aisle fashion this year, and Kassidy Tarala telling us all about how to design your own wedding jewelry with Stephen Vincent Design Studio as well as giving plenty of options for venues, new and old.
Then, the weddings. Your weddings. Our weddings. The stories, the pictures, the love. Michael and Joel threw a big ol’ brunch for everyone. Tracy and Kristy had an official ceremony, a baby, and a celebration a year later. They did it their way.
Finally, be sure to see the Real Weddings that round out each wedding issue. Go online for additional pictures that didn’t fit into the print version and enjoy seeing the ceremonies, celebrations, and people who are still considered trailblazers in my book.
The community received tremendous news this past week. Every day on Big Gay News, I read four stories that affect this community in some way. They’re on our website, they’re in the podcast, and they’re on Twitter and Facebook. The potential topics of the news stories skew across the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and ally subgroups of people, and might involve celebrities, politics, athletes, businesses, or anything that affects the rainbow community. At the beginning of the week, I reported via PBS News Hour that same-sex marriage laws are linked to fewer youth suicide attempts according to a new study. What an uplifting, heartening report of data to support this community.
According to PBS News Hour, “State legalization of same-sex marriage appears to be linked to a decrease in adolescent suicide, based on a new analysis published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics. The results give more context to the potential effects of social policy on mental health. The researchers found that suicide attempts by high school students decreased by 7 percent in states after they passed laws to legalize same-sex marriage, before the Supreme Court legalized it nationwide in 2015. Among LGB high school students, the decrease was especially concentrated, with suicide attempts falling by 14 percent. But in states that did not legalize same-sex marriage, there was no change.” The study leader and postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Julia Raifman, said that this new research “helps us better understand why we might see elevated rates of suicide attempts among LGBT adolescents.”
The author of the article, Corinne Segal, continued, “While the study drew a correlation between lower suicide rates and same-sex marriage legalization, it did not explain a potential cause for the lowered rates. It is possible that the laws ‘communicated to young LGB populations that they were equal, and that improved their mental health,’ Raifman said. It’s also possible that increased visibility for same-sex marriage, both in politics and media coverage, increased LGB adolescents’ sense of social support, she said.”
Later in the week I also had to report that transgender students would be losing the federal guidance that supported their rights under Title IX to use the bathroom that matches their gender identities. The rights still exist under Title IX, but in a time when we’re seeing how increased support and visibility in politics and media coverage for marriage possibly helps the kids of this community decide against suicide, we need to be ever-vigilant in our advocacy for trans adults and kids whose support in policy and media tends to wax and wane.
Social policy affects mental health. This is nothing new to this community. We know it. Stories from these pages, from our lives, from our families, from our neighborhoods, from our news feeds…they all attest to how this community is always affected by policies and public sentiment. And I will gladly grasp with greedy hands any data that might back up the anecdotal evidence, because we seem to always be building a case for the existence of the people in our pages, in our community, in our families, in our world. This data might say that legalizing same-sex marriage potentially resulted in fewer suicides, rather than definitively proving it, but even a link between the two is fortifying. Feel strength in it. Recognize the power in supporting each other. Suit up and show up. Because, on both large and small scales, we need to be there for all members of this rainbow.
I don’t know if you know this, but I’ve been reading the news for our Big Gay News podcast for a while now, just recently transitioning from twice a week to do it for every episode, five days a week. It’s a very interesting exercise, both as a professional and a citizen of our country and world. Linda Raines, my coworker, compiles the stories and I read them into a microphone, sometimes cold, not having seen them before speaking the words. I’m supposed to read the news fairly quickly and without emotion or editorializing with vocal inflection. My job is not to be sassy or judgmental, it is to convey the information. A few times recently, I’ve been caught off guard by both the beauty and the atrocity of the news that I’m reading. Both swells of pride and absolute shock at how ugly our humanity is can cause me to choke up, gather myself, and re-record the segment. I haven’t trained for this; it’s pretty much on-the-job training as I go…and as I teach myself. I’m also teaching myself more about the world every day. Through Big Gay News and via so many other sources, I read so much more than I ever have, like I mentioned at the end of 2016. I am overwhelmed by learning as fast as I can and by processing my emotions on the fly at a rapid-fire pace. And this is taking a toll.
In an issue that’s all about health — restaurants, dealing with the death of a partner, orthodontics, and HIV/AIDS meds — the topic of mental health and how to cope with the barrage of news and social media is appropriate. I know I’m not alone in wondering how to handle our current events. But I also know that I have been training for times like these, psychologically, and am better prepared to cope with them than I was to take over our podcast, which is clipping along swimmingly. So, let me share some of what I’ve learned over the years, most of which has to do with dialectics, when two or more ideas are conflicting and we have to figure out how to operate despite their existence. Sound familiar? On so many levels. And, hey, I already paid the copays and premiums for this information. It’s all yours to do with what you will.
The first idea I have to remember before stepping foot into coping with the conflicting ideas around me is that there are things I can control and things I can’t. This is a foundation for programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and The Serenity Prayer as well as just a plain old way of fact-checking our worlds. Because, when we make sense of our worlds with a one-two punch of thoughts and feelings, we often need to step back and ask, “But is that true?” and “Can I control that?” before proceeding with processing what’s happening. And, we know it’s true that we don’t have control over a great many things, so focusing on what we do have control over is key for our health.
Reading as much as I do is one way of having control over things. If there is something that has happened and I start reacting to it, I know that the more I can learn about it, the better I will feel, even if I can’t do anything about the original situation. My second tip for coping with news is to find reputable sources for the information. I used to look at some of the sources being shared out there, and I’d shake my head that people who don’t share my views would fall victim to such shoddy writing and reporting…but then I realized that many of the sources that fall into my own points of view also manipulate me with wonky ways of presenting information. I have found that the closer I stay to reading the sources that mostly report the happenings instead of editorializing on them, the more peace I have in my mind and heart. Because, when the sources go into opinion and clickbait to get people to read, they are often needlessly sensational and more doomsday than fact-checking would support.
It’s like talking to two people who have different versions of a car crash and not being able to suss out the actual truth of the matter, so I look to the smashed vehicles to tell me the story. Thankfully, there are sources out there that give us simply the information about the crash, the condition of the cars, the situation before the crash, and other context, even including statements from the two drivers. But, when a source leads with the opinion of a driver or an onlooker, and only sticks to that story, is when we all need to look further to supplement that opinion with the actual facts presented. Lord knows, I love an opinion that matches mine and I wouldn’t mind if it were the only side of the story presented. But, we all know that there’s more than one side to every story, and the more we can understand about the situation, the better informed we will be. Then, the better informed we are, the more equipped we’ll be for coping with the bigger picture.
But what happens when we are overwhelmed with information and opinions and stories and news? The third tip I’ll put forth is to reclaim your mindfulness. Mindfulness is being grounded in your present moment, under your current circumstances, thinking and feeling what is happening right now, to you. Not in the future, not in another country, not in the chambers of congress, not in a march. Right now, I am sitting in my green chair and typing this piece. I am putting my thoughts and feelings into my fingers and the keyboard and seeing them appear on the screen. My dog, Grendel, is snoozing on the couch waiting to cuddle, and my coffee is cooling down. I am privileged in my safety and comfort. My apartment is secure, my lap blanket is soft, and my muscles are tense, so I could probably calm down a moment or two. This is my greatest challenge, being mindful. It’s hard to slow myself down and just acknowledge that, though I am worried and angry and reading everything I can get into all the tabs open on my screen, I also need to take the dog for a walk soon. Dialectically, my goals for saving the world have to be balanced with living my life. So, how do I do that?
Mindfulness is a broad, broad topic, and I recommend looking up mindfulness techniques. Some things work for some people but don’t for others. There are times when imagining I’m a leaf on a river, floating along and being in control of nothing works very well, but there are times when I just need to squeeze my fists as hard as I can to remind myself that I have strength and power, but when I unclench my fists I am also reminded that I also need release and rest, and that it can feel good. I am a big fan of finding — and making time for — self-soothing exercises. What do I like to do that will keep me from coping in unhealthy ways? I like curling up with Grendel and binge-watching shows on Netflix, keeping my screens away from me so I’m not distracted by news. I cook and listen to audiobooks because I can’t be preoccupied by news and current events while stories are filling my ears and I’m wielding a sharp knife. Or, something I never knew about until recently but is one of my favorite concepts, I can put the worry aside until later. Because, no, it doesn’t serve me to deny the fact that I’m worrying so much lately, but I can tell myself, “You know what? You’re working right now. Why don’t you worry about this later, after you’ve written this story?” Some people actually set aside some time in their day to go over their worries. I haven’t quite gotten my life structured in such a way as to schedule in the worry, but I think it can be a great way of handling our world today.
Lastly, we are humans who are operating at a high level of activation lately. That means that many of us are toward the top end of our personal zones of what we can tolerate, in terms of our thoughts and emotions. When we know that we are on edge, easily reactionary and upset, or even likely to go the other way and just shut down, we need to disengage for a little while. When we are activated, triggers can be big and little…but they can send us reeling into a space where we might become even more stressed or fall into despair. So, as a fourth bit of advice, I encourage you to look at yourself and try to sense where your window of tolerance is and try to stay within it. Because when we keep doing what we know isn’t doing us any favors by pushing our boundaries, it turns into that we’re literally causing our own struggle to continue.
If you find that you are inundated with what your social media is shouting at you, turn it off for a while. If the TV is becoming too much to pay attention to, limit your viewing. If your personal relationships tend to churn through politics a bit too much, change the subject once in a while. And, as much as I’m giving this advice to you, I’m giving it to myself. I need to balance out bad news with good news. I need to find ways I can help. I need to smile more. Sing more. Cuddle more. Those ideas help me, rather than leave me in a perpetually defensive stance. Let me validate you and that our concerns are real, no matter if we’re talking about the news of the political world or the news of our private lives; your head and your heart are always trying to make sense of things. And the better prepared you are to take care of yourself as you figure things out, the better your outcome will be.
I won’t diminish how things might feel right now to many people. I will say that we have plenty of control over many things, including how we react to what’s happening in our world in big and small ways. No army can fight on an empty stomach, but neither can we stand strong if we are mentally exhausted and psychologically beyond our limits.
As another method of mindfulness, I give thanks. I recognize the beauty in this community. The resilience, the courage, the perspectives, the strength, the solidarity, and all the other aspects that have made this community into what it is: a successful force that will not be silenced.
Lately, I’ve seen a little backlash against the idea that the difference of a day on a calendar from 2016 to 2017 means that the world starts fresh and new. I agree, it’s a little arbitrary to say that everything changed when I woke up on January 1, but it’s still a nice concept that we get a little refresher every year. A slight reset. Calories still count the same. Bills still cost the same. Politics are still as they are. The people you see every day are hopefully still there (or not). A job maybe gets a little breather after having a day off, if you get one. It’s a way for us to reframe and shift our thinking a little. And it’s a time to remind ourselves that we do have some control over our worlds. We can approach things from a new perspective. Our habits can be shifted a bit. We can intentionally change lanes. And we can be healthier in body, heart, and mind.
This issue may seem like a bunch of events. Some cool clothes. A funky new place to eat and spend hours indoors, having fun with other people. But look at the piece on seasonal depression and let that frame a bit of this issue for you too. As we start this new year, the days are already getting longer, but the air is still cold and biting. It’s a time when we burrow into our insular worlds a little more, something that can be detrimental to our well-being. I tell you, my world with my dog, Grendel, can be pretty small and stifling if I stay in it too long. I’m not a full-on extrovert, but I can actually feel my body become restless when I haven’t seen anyone but my dog in too long a time. If you’re at all similar to me, you can look at this issue as a guide for how to make sure we get out there and stay engaged in the world. And, as my people the Norwegians say (I’m sure it’s not just their saying), “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” So bundle up and be weather aware, and get out there.
And, please, keep an eye on each other. Reach out. Check up. Drop by. Answer the phone. Heck, dial the phone. Extend yourself. Considering how many in this community surround themselves with chosen family rather than blood relations, it’s important to be there. Be each other’s keeper, particularly when the days are dark and cold. Especially when the weather might forecast a “cold with a chance of dismal.”
2016. I don’t think I have ever read as much as I did this year. Articles, thoughts, worries, warnings, history, self-help, obituaries, tributes, and as much whimsy as I could throw in for balance. I’ve even kept a nice instructional article from the Star Tribune detailing how to make a 2016 dumpster fire ornament, which I will likely add to my tree this year. Art as therapy. I’ll take it. But what I find to be more important than soaking in words until my fingers get pruney is people — relating in real life, being with them in body, hearing their thoughts, showing up as a form of solidarity. A friend threw a potluck a few weekends ago, just to get people together to remind us that we have each other and that is such a good thing. We are a good thing.
There is such goodness in people. I tell you, if you ever want an upper, run a contest asking people to submit others for recognition with the stipulation that they have to give reasons why a person deserves an award. Honestly, I say this is my favorite issue of the year because I love giving people recognition; but, perhaps more than that, it’s because I get to learn why others think someone should be recognized. This year, the Lavender Community Awards recognize eight people and organizations. We talk about who they are and what they do and where they involve themselves and for whom. That’s what so much of this is about: who these people help and why. And what others see in the work they do.
From the submissions, I read about many other awards that some of these people have received as well as all of the different roles they play for different organizations. I learned about particular circumstances when they stepped in to help and stand up for others. Words like “tireless” came up multiple times as did “help,” “advocate,” “defense,” and “fight.” Some of the winners might be fairly new to the scene or have started newer programs or groups to address the continuing needs of this community, others have been fighting the fight for years and years. There are artists and organizers and leaders and lawyers and volunteers and friendly faces. What it all underscores is that there is so much that has been done in and for this community, and there is still so much more left to do. And what I wish for so many of the leaders and volunteers in this community is some sort of fuel of goodwill for their tirelessness. Because helping, advocating, defending, and fighting is hard work, as is pulling people together to form new alliances and support groups and work groups and audiences for the art that helps best express the challenges and triumphs of our days. I give a heartfelt thank you to both the recipients of the 2016 Lavender Community Awards as well as the people who nominated them. Good begets good.
Also of tremendous worth is the Arts Best of 2016 feature by John Townsend. John, through his Arts Spotlight and countless online reviews throughout the year, provides great fodder for understanding his choices and awards for the stars of our performing arts community in 2016. It is through the arts that we expand how we think and feel about our world, and I am ever so grateful to the people who give us these gifts…show after show, script after script, note after note, step after step.
I will take from 2016 the beauty of people, the hearts of the tireless, and the comfort we can find in each other. Have very happy holidays and I’ll see you in 2017.
This issue comes out the day before Thanksgiving, timed to hit before the arguably biggest shopping days of the year. It’s a time when we’re programmed to give thanks. Each year, we see on TV or in our dining rooms people going around a table and telling each other about the things they’re particularly grateful for this year. So, in this issue that tends to be a little bit of fluff full of gift ideas and frivolous notions, I’d like to highlight why I’m thankful for it.
The Holiday Gift Guide is something that is developed both for people in this community and by people in this community. It is not necessarily a rainbow on every page, but at its core is the notion that not only does this community have buying power, but it also demands freedom of expression in that buying power. Whether it’s something as neutral as a hoodie or as overt as a “Queer AF” mug or somewhere in-between with a neon unicorn, the choices are careful and the choices matter. I’m pleased that contributors came forward with health and wellness ideas, too, because being able to find peace in our minds and bodies is crucial to our well-being, particularly as a community that is still so marginalized. This issue is a reminder of what we have and can give, and I am grateful for it.
I am grateful for the tribute Steve Lenius wrote about his mother. Steve is one of our two writers who’s been with us since the very beginning of Lavender, writing about this community as a whole, with a focus on the leather and kink community. In his piece, he informs us how his mother helped this community by writing books about her experience as Steve came out; she assisted so many others in sorting through their thoughts and feelings. I daresay that the books he included in the tribute also represent a gift guide of sorts; I encourage people to buy them for yourself and anyone else who could benefit from them. I am thankful for Mary Borhek.
While John Townsend offers up a fun gift guide of holiday-themed shows and performances to see this season, he also gives us a look into how the Children’s Theatre Company is focusing on transgender issues and breaking the binary that binds us. When reading his piece, I encourage you to step back and remember that we’re not talking about college-level courses or continuing ed training sessions where people are talking on an advanced level, we’re talking about kids and young adults. What a tremendous time for the Children’s Theatre to put emphasis on changing how they present scripts and works as well as the language that is used, not just in materials and presentations, but even between themselves as employees. I am grateful for this work and the collaboration with the community; this initiative serves as an example for others and makes our society better.
Finally, I am thankful for the recognition of the Minnesota Magazine & Publishing Association for our 11 Excellence Awards and the coveted Magazine of the Year title. I am thankful for our contributors and employees through the years who have made this happen. I give thanks for the readers and advertisers without whom it would not be possible.