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.
The Year End Auto Issue. As often happens with vehicles, they can seem as though they’re more like gift ideas than utilitarian tools for life. What we want versus what makes sense. I’ve been happy to find vehicles that are both fun to drive and make sense, but there’s still a part of me that says, “This one. Put a big bow on it and leave it in my driveway, please.” But this issue is even more intentional in its gift flavor in that it not only features a luxury sports car, but it also gives us a great idea for a gift of driving somebody else’s luxury sports cars for a while…as well as a way we can give back to help others with their vehicles.
How can we give back to help others with their vehicles? I was already familiar with donating cars for tax credit so they can be refurbished and sold, but The Lift Garage is a completely new concept to me. It’s the surprise inside this issue. We have clinics with sliding-scale fees, we have food shelves, we have places for affordable clothing, but what do we have for vehicle repairs? I can’t emphasize enough what an intriguing business model and organization The Lift Garage is: it reminds us all that something that might be fun and helps us get through our days is also what can make or break someone’s ability to make a living, stay employed, and keep a home. It’s humbling and it’s something more people need to know about.
As for the rest of the issue, I can tell we’re getting close to the end of the year when I’m stuffing in content to make sure we fit it all into 2016. This community is an active one, so this issue has a whole lot of Lavender Lenses in it showing off photos of people at events that celebrate and honor each other and what everyone’s doing. They’re both an archive for what this community cares about as well as a reminder to keep recognizing each other and what you work to achieve.
What we’ve got coming up for the rest of the year is some pretty fun stuff. The Holiday Gift Guide is both fluffy and resourceful, whether you’re looking for something for yourself or someone on your gift list. I get a lot of guff for going shopping and coming home with things for myself because that’s when things are on sale. Are you kidding me? Get it. The Guide is also when we get to highlight some local makers, items that are of specific interest to this community, and vouch for particular products that would make any consumer satisfied.
Then, after the Holiday Gift Guide, we’ll have the issue that ends the year with best-of recaps and the Lavender Community Awards. It’s a feel-good issue full of recognition and respect. We’ve had some great nominations rolling in but the nominations will be closed by the time you’re reading this. If you don’t want to miss any future opportunities to nominate people for awards or submit things for the publication when I ask for them (like for weddings or pet photos or things like that), be sure to follow us on Facebook (search “Lavender Magazine”) and check in on our website as you’re making your internet rounds. That’s where we have the flexibility to inform you of more things and publish exclusive content that can’t be found in the print issue.
Another way we can remind you of our fresh website content and events is through our e-newsletter, Lavender Link. Want to find out what’s in print and online on a weekly basis? We don’t spam you or do anything obnoxious in your inbox, we just tell you what’s going on, what you can win in our contests, where you can find our events, and what new stuff has appeared on our website recently. Go to www.lavendermagazine.com/lavenderlink to sign up and stay informed.
To piggyback off the topic of where you can find us digitally, did you know that our circulation every two weeks is over 33,500? It is. Between the print copies you can find at the distribution sites, the iPad installations, and the iPhone installations, we reach quite a few people and places. And all for free. So, find us in Newsstand or the App Store and install Lavender Magazine to get it delivered directly to you when each new issue comes out. It’s all to make sure this community gets access to content about itself, without barriers or cost.
Also online and on your devices is Big Gay News. If you’ve been following us through the years, you know that we’ve had a daily presence in posting, tweeting, and podcasting news for this community from around the world. Linda Raines and Shane Lueck find the news, Shane and I record the daily podcasts. So, if you want to keep up with just a smattering of stories a day (or if you want to hear my rather thick Minnesota accent…at times, not all the time), follow us on Twitter at @biggaynews for the daily headlines and find us on iTunes to get the daily podcasts.
Lastly, our events year is winding down. We’ve had two events a month — First Thursday for the happy hour crowd and Score Thursday for the sports crowd — and we’ve held them at various places, from hotels to furnishings stores to bars to the only gay sports bar and restaurant in town (that’s going gangbusters!). Check your calendars and clear the nights because the next Score Thursday is going to be at Betty Danger’s Country Club in Northeast Minneapolis followed by the next First Thursday at The Intercontinental Hotel in Downtown St. Paul. We get around.
And I do hope to see you around. As the days get shorter and colder, let’s be sure to find each other and celebrate this community whenever we can.
Sometimes what I like most about my home is leaving it. This home and garden issue covers three aspects of leaving home with a theme of “Homes Away From Home,” so we’re looking at pets, hotels, and personal property as vacation rentals.
The cover story for this issue is all about this new trend of renting out personal property for vacationing people, people who need temporary housing, and people who are looking for spaces for special events. They tend to be unique and neighborhood-oriented. I’m excited to see where this trend goes. The project we show off here pleases me in a number of ways: it came about because of an article in one of our previous home and garden issues; it’s a brand new concept to the city of Minneapolis and this project was designed by the architect who quarterbacked the process of getting ADUs approved; it’s owned by a member of this community and is a concept that is particularly appealing to this community that tends to take care of (and make space for) their family members; and it’s an appealing business prospect for a community that tends to grasp entrepreneurial opportunities such as this.
Also of interest to our readership are the new hotels popping up in Minneapolis. Design-forward, food-oriented, locally sourced, the new properties are not only beautiful but also provide great opportunities for us, our travelers, and our special events. Suites, rooms, full-service, self-service, small, and large, there is plenty to choose from and our city is all the better thanks to these additions. I’ve got my eye on the pet-friendly one for a staycation, myself.
Lastly, with pets in mind, one of the most important things I do when making travel plans is make sure my dog, Grendel, is all set. He’s almost 11 years old and the last time I boarded him, I learned that he is the proverbial old dog who can’t learn new tricks. Our usual “camp” is out in the country, about an hour away. I decided to try some place near my loft in St. Paul for a quick two-day trip and he responded by eating his foam bed the first night, he was so upset. Being fluent in his language, this told me that he’s going back to camp in the country, because that’s not only where they know him, but he knows them. It’s familiar. It’s part of his “territory.” But I still have great guilt over it. So, it was good timing for me to read the piece about Downtown Dogs in this issue in which Ralph Bernstein says, “That’s exactly why places like Downtown Dogs exist and why we all love what we do.” When we find a place that works for our pets as a home away from home, we can relax and let ourselves off the hook, knowing that they’re somewhere they’re known and wanted. Phew.
While I love to stay at unique properties and luxe hotels, what brings me home is the four-legged guy who prefers the company of me, and only me, in our four walls. May our wanderlust always find balance with what calls us to return.
I went to a wedding a couple weekends ago. It was an idyllic cusp-of-fall day at Mayowood Stone Barn in Rochester. The whole afternoon and evening seemed like it granted the couple an extra-long golden hour, when the sun hits everything just right. The choices of songs and readings struck my fancy perfectly with a nice mix of current affairs, social commentary, romance, and spirituality, while there was plenty of fun to be had with a taco bar, a mish-mash of colorful cake selections, and a retro VW Blue Bus Photo Booth parked outside the barn that used to belong to the Mayo family of Mayo Clinic fame. What struck me that afternoon is that the wedding was perfect for my preferences as a 39-year-old in 2016. The rituals were present, the event pulled in the traditional and the trendy, the readings resonated with my more mature mind and heart, and it was obvious that the couple was celebrating the fact that they had, as they put it in their vows, found their “person” in each other. There was a timelessness to the affair and an endlessness to the love.
When I was younger, it seemed that a wedding would be the beginning of a to-do list: house, pet, kids, retirement, death. As I’m getting older, my checklist might be down to just one thing: someone to hang out with for the rest of my life. A beloved who doesn’t have to do or be anything but mine. Less of a checklist love, more of a steadfast love. And if a wedding that makes that bond official can somehow capture the endlessness of our love today, tomorrow, and forever with golden-hour aplomb, I’ll consider myself and my beloved to be particularly fortunate.
This wedding issue has a mish-mash of traditional and trendy. I’m thrilled to present a large section of Real Weddings, because seeing people in this community commit themselves to each other is something of which I’ll never tire. You celebrating your love in your own ways with your people is what makes each of these wedding issues a public record of sorts; evidence of both what makes this community unique as well as an archive of how you did it for those who follow your steps. Also in this issue, we talk about new practices in throwing more casual events, we show off new trends with the most delectable and decor-oriented cookies, and we talk to two couples who married each other after taking their time, whether due to life’s circumstances or legalities or a mixture of all sorts of things. But, their love waited. And their bonds will last. And their love will be endless.
While weddings and events change with time and trend, we’ll always have endless love as the goal, the hope, the ever-after.
Have I mentioned before how what we see in media — on the screens, in the magazines, in images both moving and still — is representative of only about five percent of what our population actually looks like? That means that 95 percent of us don’t often see ourselves in what’s presented to our eyes. We’re taller, shorter, bigger, slighter, with longer torsos, with longer legs, with shorter necks, with bigger feet, with chubbier cheeks. We’re diverse. And we’re suffering from our own erasure.
This does not mean that the five percent we see is bad. It does mean that they’re not representative of us. If we can find ourselves in them, great. If we can’t, what do we do?
We need to look elsewhere. And I recommend Instagram. Instagram is an app that you can install on your smartphone or, if you don’t have a smartphone, you can go to Instagram.com and join it via its website. What you have there is a collection of self-taken and self-published photos of people. Selfies. Fashion shoots. Promotional photos for items of clothing we don’t often see in the five percent of the population’s images that surround us. It’s a grassroots way of finding ourselves as well as showing off who we are. Fighting our own erasure. I recommend joining it and then searching for people you want to surround yourself with; once I found people who look like me, my whole way of seeing changed. My Instagram feed became empowering.
Need suggestions for who to follow? Here are a handful of options…and then have fun exploring the wide world of Instagram. Take pictures of yourself to add to the array of beauty out there. Show off your personal style. Be present and expand the five percent to become more like 10 percent. To include you. Us.
With you and with power,
Harnaam Kaur: bearded dame, body confidence activist, @harnaamkaur
Bear Skn: comfortable underwear for brawny men (founded by former Minneapolites Bjorn Ryan-Gorman and his partner Jody Koenig), @bear_skn
Beth Ditto: “fat, lesbian feminist” with her own clothing line, @marybethditto
The Invisible Tomboy: promoting and encouraging the gentlewoman/mxn tomboy, @theinvisibletomboy
The arts. Crucial and omnipresent aspects of our civilizations for all of time. May we experience them, may we fight for them, may we be makers of them. In this issue, we put the primary focus on the performing arts, but I’d like to offer up a couple arts and dining pairings for the visual arts. They’re ones that are a bit further out of grasp from the Twin Cities and oh-so-worth the drive. To quote The Who, they’re all about “See Me, Feel Me.”
We are well aware of how fortunate we are in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to have a multitude of masterpieces in our midst, not to mention the bevy of all other artwork that hasn’t been given the label “masterpiece.” But what is not as known is that there is a surprising number of masterpieces in the most impressive museum in Winona, Minnesota. The Minnesota Marine Art Museum houses a collection of work from the Hudson River School as well as a stymying number of pieces of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Modernism, and Realism by names such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Gauguin, Cézanne, O’Keeffe, Cassatt, Homer, Wyeth, and more. Among other exhibits, a special collection will be showing until Nov. 3: “150 Years of Marine Art.” And, for the more ink-inclined among us, there’s a particularly interesting exhibit that’s singing its siren song to me showing through Dec. 4 called “Ink & Water: Sailors’ Tattoos.”
No, it’s not in Winona. It’s not even close to Winona. But, in my world, it’s on the way to Winona. So, to get to Winona from the Twin Cities, you have to go south and east. Winona’s on the river, in Minnesota. What you could do is cross that river to Wisconsin and go down to Winona on that side in order to grab brunch from the good people at Chef Shack Bay City, led by Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson. I have had a number of wonderful meals there and can vouch for what a solid and enjoyable beginning of your trip along the waterways, both literal and artistic, this will be.
We know and love our sculpture parks and gardens around here. Caponi Art Park is a delight and the Walker Sculpture Garden is iconic, though under construction for the time being. Venture a little bit east and you will find an oasis of art called Franconia Sculpture Park. Free to all, it’s a place where you can park and wander for hours, walking between sculptures that range from a lizard-snack-bar to a pit of broken glass to a tower of stacked boats to a (seemingly) buried house to a pyramid of taxidermied deer. Adults and kids can go climbing on some of the pieces and take some time to watch some of the artists in residence do their work in the area set aside for their outdoor workshops. Be sure to check on any performances or exhibits scheduled to happen at Franconia; I’m sad to be out of town for the drumming and dancing headlined by Mu Daiko that’ll be happening there while this issue is being published.
I usually take the scenic route to Franconia by going first to Stillwater and then going north to Franconia and the Taylors Falls area. Food options are plentiful, no matter how you approach it: Eichten’s from the west, Taylor’s Falls from the north, any of the restaurants in Stillwater from the south; but I prefer a grab-and-go option from two fine purveyors of food in Marine on St. Croix, between Stillwater and the sculpture park. The Marine General Store has various sundries for purchase, but proceed directly to the deli case and order up some sandwiches. I recommend anything that you can add the olive spread to, which is anything. Then, walk up the street and nab a few lovely chocolates for dessert from St. Croix Chocolate Company, headed by Robyn Dochterman and Deidre Pope, and you’ve got a picnic that will make the other brown-bag lunchers at Franconia jealous.
Enjoy this issue. See and read about what your arts community is creating and bringing to you to consume as the heartbeat of our culture. Be hungry for it and demand more, while also supporting this good and crucial work.
My grandmother, Ruby, passed away at the end of April. She died on her birthday at the age of 95. I called her The Matriarch. She wasn’t even five feet tall, but she was a quiet force to reckon with. It was a good passing, a mercifully peaceful one. I am fortunate that she was in my life as long as she was, supportive of me and my life and my people and my communities. She was my champion, always.
As someone who is single, I make a home for myself, as many of us do, alone and according to my preferences. Gramma Ruby did, too. She’d lived alone after my grandfather died in 1994, which is longer than I’ve lived alone as an adult. I have much to learn from her way of being independent and fulfilled, whether hosting family and friends or sitting and listening to the local radio as she tended to do, all day long, loudly.
What I didn’t prepare myself for, physically or mentally, was how much of her home I’d end up taking into mine. Something the previous generations seemed to have in spades were dishes and linens. And, for those of us who haven’t had a wedding for which we’ve registered for such household items, an opportunity such as this yielded quite a few additions to my domestic world. I chose a number of quilts, towels, crystal goblets, a coffee service set, platters, serving bowls, and even my own set of silver. I’d never put much thought into an inheritance; I certainly never planned to bring so much of Gramma Ruby home to live with me in St. Paul. But I see her all around me now.
My loft is only so big. Because I’ve lived in apartment buildings my entire adult life, I’ve learned that I can only take in what I can make room for by removing something else. It’s a balancing act. So, as I brought in goblets, out went mismatched glasses and mugs. As I brought in quilts, out went blankets I’ve had since my dorm days. As I brought in platters and bowls, out went a few boxes of other kitchen items to go to Goodwill. I also made room for heirloom additions that have plenty of historical and cultural significance, like her old church cookbooks that are bursting with notes and recipe cards, two spritz maker sets, an almond cake pan, a lefse flipper, and even an old coffee grinder with a hand crank. I am so fortunate to have these artifacts of my grandparents’ life in my own space, to share with anyone who I welcome into my home.
As I consider the Fall Home & Garden Issue, there are topics of decor, furniture, and big living in smaller spaces. From the view in my loft on University Avenue, I can tell you: I am living large and hardly alone.
Cultures around the world embrace the pomp and circumstance of weddings, and I revel in how a day can be transformed to celebrate the love of two people in ways that incorporate clothing, florals, venue, food, cake, music, and all things swag. You want a logo for your day? It can be designed. A special font? Pick it. Color schemes and party favors and photographers and a special vehicle for the arrival at the reception are eye candy for my marketing-loving self. I laud a well-done gimmick and there’s nothing so gimmicky in each of our lives as a wedding. And I mean that in a good way. Weddings as gimmicks grab our attention and pull us into the relationships of others, give us a stake in their lives and well-being, and hold us accountable as witnesses to their union. I just love weddings.
I’m sure I’m not alone in how I’ve internalized this idea that people have to sacrifice to prepare themselves for their special day. I’ve joked about how someone came out of the womb with a three-ring binder for planning their big day, they just needed the significant other to round out the experience. We agonize over guest lists and have fun playing laser tag with the scanner guns when we go to register for gifts. People are chosen to stand up for us at our ceremonies and they wear special clothing that we’d never ask them to wear any other day of their lives, but feel justified in doing so on our “big day.” And, for ourselves, we too often go out and find clothes that are aspirational…and change ourselves until we fit them, and not the other way around.
This is where I’d like to offer some advice. When you think of getting married and start looking at what your day will involve, try to embrace and accept yourself, as you are. It’s how your beloved loves you; who you are right now is who they want to marry, and that’s what matters. In these pages, we talk about how to pick out suits, how to consider trends, how to feel comfortable on your wedding day, and how to make sure you (and your hair) can last until the end of your reception. What we don’t talk about is how to starve yourself to lose the last 15 pounds to fit into the tux you ordered, we don’t talk about how to add reps to your workout so your arms look cut in that sleeveless dress, and we don’t talk about how you need to change to make your day perfect.
Instead, we have some excellent examples of how to make weddings work for you. Emily Post’s great-great-granddaughter, Lizzie, talks about how to make your current budget fit for wedding gift season, stressing the importance of not stretching your money too thin. Mike Marcotte gives us great ideas for gifts as well as gets advice from Anthony Andler of Heimie’s Haberdashery about how to plan ahead and tailor what you wear for your wedding to suit you. Even greeting cards for weddings and relationships are dropping some of the stuffiness and getting real, as shown with examples from Papyrus and Emily McDowell Studio. And as far as the article regarding hair is concerned, not only does Sica at Fox Den Salon provide a safe space and wonderful hairstyles for members of this community, but some of the people who she chose to model her hairstyles are familiar to us as models and performers of burlesque; they are members of our community who are role models for body positivity and acceptance.
Wedding style. What’s trendy and stylish is being yourself and being comfortable for your wedding day. At the risk of sounding gimmicky, your union deserves putting forth your most authentic self for each other, on your special day and every day after.