Category: new things

New Thing: See A Movie At ‘The Heights’ (+ voting with your money)

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try. Some are easy, some are suuuuuper hard (at least for me) and some are so, so mundane and easy to complete. You can read about previous adventures here. 

Tell me if you guys know this feeling:
Lean-forward-in-your-seat fascination
I-should-probably-be-embarrassed-I’m-this-excited grinning
A just barely suppressed desire to clap like a toddler

It pains me to admit that riding a Segway gave me this feeling and most recently, I experienced this while watching an elderly gentleman toot away on a restored Wurlitzer as they slowly rose out of a stage in a gorgeous, historic theater in Northeast Minneapolis. As our organist tootled through his repertoire of show tunes (including ‘Edelweiss’ and ‘Give My Regards To Broadway,’ obviously) the lights on the Wurlitzer changed color and I leaned back in my comfy, velvet seat, grinning like an idiot.

Growing up in rural Minnesota, it was a major point of pride that our town of 2,000 had a movie theater. Sure, we only had one stoplight but we had art deco murals, a marquee filled with blinking yellow lights, reasonably priced popcorn, and a screen twice as big as what you’d find in those cineplexes.

So when I heard about The Heights’ live, pre-show Wurlitzer performance and their $8 indie movies I couldn’t wait to hunker down and engage in some good old fashioned nostalgia. It was so wonderful and sweet I promptly signed up for their newsletter and announced to all and sundry that this is where you can expect to find me every Friday night this winter.
Ass in chair, grinning like a dork at a light up organ.

And on a related note, I’d like to pull out a tiny soap box and remind you of something you already know: 
We vote with our dollars.

Each time we spend money at an independently owned business that gives back to the community and pays employees a living wage, we’re voting for the kind of world we want.
When we go to a movie at The Heights rather than Mann Cinema, we’re voting for light up organs, thought-provoking movies, and community engagement. We’re voting against $10 popcorn and movies like this.
Rant finished.
If you’re interested in your own vintage theater experience, there are still tons all over the U.S.: The Riverview (this is in the Twin Cities and I go there all the time! Movies are $3!), The Orpheum Theater in L.A., The Byrd Theater in Richmond, VA, The Senator Theater in Baltimore, MD, The Castro Theater in San Francisco, The Fargo Theater, The Alabama Theater, Screenland Armour in Kansas City, Galaxy Drive-In in Ennis, TXThe Tampa Theater (I saw a movie here in March and it was AMAZING.)Do you have an awesome, historic movie theater near you? Leave a link in the comments and I’ll edit this post to include it!
interior photo by twincities.com 

New Thing: Take An Historical Tour of Summit Hill (aka the neighborhood where I live)

 

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try. Some of them are emotionally or physically challenging, a lot of them will make you question how I became an adult without doing them. You can read about previous adventures here.

Are you guys ready for the nerdiest hobby you’ve never heard of?

I like to call said hobby ‘house walks.’

Before she up and moved (weep!) my BFF and I loved to walk the streets of my neighborhood and make up stories about the people who lived behind the bricked, ivied facades.

“He’s a corporate lawyer and she’s a social worker. They met in college at improv, back when he was an English major and thought he was going to become a journalist who would share truths with the world. She’s really into gardening but isn’t very good at it and he’s too sweet to just tell her to hire a gardener. They have two standard poodles named Simon and Garfunkel.”

And on and on and on for hours.

The weird thing is, my neighborhood is steeped in real, actual true stories that I have made zero effort to learn. Like, people whiz by my apartment on segways (!!!) while a guide shrills about architecture and gestures to the condos across the street where gangsters sipped cocktails in the basement and Scott and Zelda lived when their daughter was born.

Do I take notice of these things? I do not. I hustle past the historical plaques on my way to CVS and wonder, devotedly, if they’ll have my favorite lipstick in stock.

But I don’t want to be that person who lives in a city for years completely unaware of its history. When people ask me about the mob and our capital city I don’t want to be all “Mu-huh?” (shrug)

Which is what I currently do.

So last weekend, I corralled two of my favorite ladies and we wandered around in the sunshine with 15 other nerdy, historical souls learning about rich people and our fair city.

Highlights:Olden day millionaires had no qualms about having favorite children, announcing to everyone who their favorite child was, giving them their company and then building them a mansion next door.

Olden day millionaires were also so rich and so concerned about their legacies, they would pull down their old mansion and reuse the bricks in their new carriage house out of fear that someone would turn their previous home into ….. an apartment building! Horrors!

You can be a totally famous radio personality, live on a fancy-ass street in a nice house, and drive an old Volvo. Which everyone will agree is The Cutest.

Want to impress your neighbors? Put the expensive, glossy bricks on the front of the house and use matte, stock-standard stuff on the rest of your house. Apparently, that’s why it was called ‘the gilded age.’

Want to not impress your neighbors? Put brightly colored plastic Adirondack chairs and a gas grill in front of your multi-million dollar historical mansion.

Things the historical society would rather you didn’t do: have a garage that faces the street. Gah-ross.

It’s possible to buy an honest-to-god, 14-bedroom, historic home (in need of many repairs) for 1.1 million dollars. Doesn’t that seem shockingly low? I have a friend in NYC whose one-bedroom cost that much.

St. Paul’s most famous citizen – F. Scott Fitzgerald – wasn’t a particularly kind or agreeable human. Apparently, when his grandmother died (from whom he got all his money before he was famous) he wrote in his diary “Grandmother died today. Her greatest gift.” Guy, come on.

What do you know about the history of your city? Which obvious, beloved local tourist attractions have you never seen?
 
P.S. Other new things: host a tea party, take a flight lesson, ride a segway (WHICH IS THE BEST AND YOU NEED TO DO TODAY)

New Thing: Take A Trapeze Class

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try. And then I try ’em. You can read about past shenanigans here.

When you’re taking a trapeze class for the first time, you really rather hope that you’re not the only newbie. 
So when I walked into Twin Cities Trapeze a few weeks ago I was thrilled when my kind-faced, well-muscled instructor told me that another first-timer would be joining us. “Oh, good!” I thought. “We can bond over our lack of upper body strength.”
Jake then introduced me to Layla, the other novice. I looked to my left and then down two feet because Layla was six years old.
Undeterred, I chatted Layla up. We discussed her prowess on the monkey bars and the argument she’d just had with her mom about whether she should wear shorts or leggings to trapeze class because “I always wear shorts on the playground so I don’t see why I need to wear leggings for this.”
Touche, Layla.

 

Here’s what you need to know about taking a trapeze class:

 

1. It’s kind of scary (but not nearly as scary as you’d think)Is it a bit nerve-wracking to climb 28 feet up an insanely narrow ladder before you’re clipped into a harness? Yes. Is it a little terrifying to jump off a tiny platform 28 feet in the air? Also, yes.
But you’re wearing a harness with ropes on each hip and those ropes are being controlled by one very experienced and strong spotter on the ground – sort of the equivalent to belaying if you’ve ever rock climbed. You’re also swinging over a very wide net and you’re hanging onto something. If you’ve ever cliffdived or bungee jumped it’s waaaaay less scary than that.
2. You’re going to use muscles you didn’t know you had (or needed)
You know what’s hard, you guys? Going from a dead hang to pulling your knees up and hooking them on a bar above your head. Within the space of a few seconds. Sure, I can struggle and paddle my way up there, with lots of grunting and hoiking if you give me 45 seconds – but instantaneously? Let’s not overestimate my abs, friends.
Thankfully, the incredibly patient and kind instructors showed me how to use the momentum of the swing and my own body weight to (finally) get my knees up in a (somewhat) timely fashion.
3. If you’ve got good instructors and you’re vaguely fit, you’ll succeed at this
By the end of my lesson, the instructors taught me how to position my hands and arch my back so another trapeze-er could snatch me off my perch. I was compleeeeeetely doubtful that I’d be able to accomplish this (remember how I paddled my legs up to the bar?) but when you’ve got good instructors, all you really need to do is follow their directions.When the moment came, I stretched my hands back in the W-shape as I’d been taught, stared through my ponytail and yelped when Jake grabbed me by my wrists. I’m flying! I’m a flyer! I’m pretty much ready for my sparkly, spangly outfit now!Even with an entire week of stiff muscles and a few blisters, I’m totally committed to trying trapeze again.
(after I spend a month doing a lot of ab work.)

Have you ever tried trapeze or aerial work? Would you? 

New Thing: Wear Wedges Every Day For A Week

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try and then I do ’em. You can read about past adventures here.
 
 
Let me preface this post by telling you that:
1. I’ve reached the age of nearly-35 without ever really learning how to walk in heels
2. I never understood what Carrie Bradshaw was so wound up about (my favorite footwear is a pair of leather riding boots I bought for $5 and spent $120 having re-heeled and re-soled)
3. Whenever anyone attempts to draw a heavy-handed parallel between shoes + romantic partners, shoes + life, shoes + your relationship with your mother, I could just about give myself a migraine with eye rolling.
AND HERE I AM, ABOUT TO DO THAT VERY THING.
For 99% of my life, I’ve been happy to pad around in flats and sandals, with the occasional, thrilling foray into boots with a one inch heel. Once every few years I’d try on a pair of heels and toddle around the shoe store, looking painfully similar to that shiba inu in snow boots.Periodically, I’d watch Youtube videos about how to walk in heels and I even had my friend Freya write a guest post about it because I had no idea how. My post would have been all “Put heels in purse and ballet flats on feet. Once you are in the bar, put on your heels and stand up, clinging to the bar. Do not move for any reason! Wait till everyone leaves and then put your flats back on.“Each year, I’d buy a new pair of wedges, hoping that this time, I’d figure it out. This time I could make it work. This time, if I just tried hard enough I could walk in these things. And when I saw these wedges,* I didn’t think things would be any different.

Then I tried them on.

And it was totally different. I didn’t have to try. I wasn’t slipping around or teetering on the top of my toes or skittering like a baby giraffe scared of a peacock. I didn’t have to watch an ever-loving video to learn how to navigate these. I could just be myself and walk the way I usually did and pair these with all the clothes I already had in my closet.

There are many possible reasons that these shoes work for me when others hadn’t. They’re exactly the right height. They have an ankle strap. They have delightful, slightly squishy soles that grip linoleum. But I’d like to believe that, more than that, they just happen to be The Right Shoes For Me.

All of this, of course,  leads me to a clumsy, Sex In The City-esque metaphor + epiphany:
So frequently in life, we burn ourselves out trying to make something work.
A romantic relationship “Maybe if I could just be more outdoorsy he’d like me more?
A friendship “I know she’s always late and she flakes out a lot but we’ve been friends forever.”
Even a career “I kind of hate it and it runs counter to my ethics but I spent so much money on my schooling…”

But really? When you find the right partner or friend or career (or shoe, apparently) it’s damn near drama-free. You don’t have to give yourself a pep talk every morning or dissect every interaction or end your days with Epsom salt baths.

Sure, you’ll have to put in the work but it’ll feel good and natural and like you – whether we’re talking about a very cute wedge or a very wonderful partner.

Tell me – did you struggle to learn to walk in heels? Do you think the best things are easy + natural? 

My soulmate wedges were $25 from Target but they’re sold out now 🙁 These and these are similar.

New Thing: Pay For A Stranger’s Meal

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try. Then I do them and write about them. You can read about previous shenanigans here

 

If, for some unknown reason, you’ve been paying undue and devoted attention to the ‘New Things’ I plan to do (they’re over there in the sidebar) you might have noticed that ‘Pay for a stranger’s meal’ has been lurking there – unchecked off – for the last two or three years.In addition to being heartwarming, this endeavor has the potential to be incredibly awkward. How do you decide who you’re going to buy a meal for? What if they find out you bought it and then try to thank you? What if they’re offended? What if the waitress tells them what’s happening and they look up all confused and weirded out?

I mulled over this for quite a while. You can’t really look at someone in a restaurant and deduce the contents of their bank account and I assume people ordering the dinner special generally possess the means to pay for it themselves. But after talking to friends who have multiple young kiddos (and coming to understand the financial realities that accompany that) I decided that just about any parent accompanied by more than one child might appreciate a free meal.And where should I go? I needed to go somewhere I could buy a meal for myself and 3-5 other people without going totally bankrupt. And I didn’t want to go to my usual place because I’m already on an awkwardly first-name basis with the waitresses and I didn’t want them mentioning my stranger-meal-buying every time I was there, stuffing my face with rice noodles.

Bangkok Thai Deli was the answer. Cheap. Delicious. Waitresses I didn’t know.

I enlisted my friend Meredith’s moral support and arrived at the restaurant completely wound up and riddled with nerves. Without exaggeration, I was more nervous about buying someone else’s meal than I was about drinking flaming sake made from fish fins.

Like, heart pumping, jittery eyed nervous.

Mere and I hunkered down and scoped out the restaurant. Lots of middle-aged couples and friend dates. I ordered a meal that was essentially fried tofu drenched in spicy peanut butter (amazing, obviously) and waited for a young family.

And then, ambling across the parking lot, came a young mom and dad, the cutest, most round-headed toddler, a sulky tween and a tiny little grandma.

Yes. Perfect.

We dawdled over our food for a bit longer (one can’t rush fried peanut butter tofu) and when our waitress brought over our check, I told her I’d also like to pay the check for the table with the cute baby.

“Do you know them?”
“Ummm, no.”
“Why do you want to pay for their meal?”
“I just think their baby is really cute?”
“…..”
“And it would be a nice thing to do? And also it’s a secret. Please don’t tell them.”

Our waitress was 70% confused, 30% nonplussed, but eventually brought over their check and I paid it…and then practically ran out of the restaurant in a panic that they’d figure out what had happened and try to talk to us. I was so flustered I tried to unlock the wrong red hatchback in the parking lot!

Was it fun and rewarding and oddly nerve wracking? Yes.
Would I do it again? Prooooooobably not. If you’re someone who abides by a value set of ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’ you can probably help a lot more people for the same amount of money by giving food gift cards to people who are homeless or you know to be struggling.

But as a one-time adventure? Absolutely.  Even if the whole thing is so scary you try to get into the wrong car.

Have you ever bought a meal for a stranger? Or has a stranger ever bought yours? 

New Thing: Play 9 Holes of Golf

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try – some of them are super difficult others are so boring you’ll reconsider my success as an adult. You can read about previous adventures here.

In case you were wondering what to wear when one goes golfing, my answer is:

I don’t know, dude. I wore a striped skirt from Target, ballet flats, and a giant leather belt I bought for $2 at Salvation Army.
This probably wouldn’t fly at Pebble Beach, but I wasn’t particularly interested in experiencing golf for the first time amidst snootiness and plaid – which is why I convinced my guy and two exceptionally patient friends to accompany me to Minneapolis’s wonderfully affordable and laid back par three public golf course at Theo Wirth park. $11 to golf? $6 for a zoomy little cart? $3 for a Bud Lite Lime? DON’TMINDIFIDO.For a long time I’ve relegated golf to the list of sports That Are Not For Me.*
It’s expensive.
It takes a long time.
It’s generally played by rich, middle aged, white dudes who spend their golf games making business and political alliances that affect The Rest Of Us.

And while all that might be true, it’s also pretty fun.

Some things I discovered:

* You’ll be waaaaay better at golf if you, you know, pay attention. If you happen to do surprisingly well the first few holes that doesn’t mean you’re actually good or that you should stop aiming for the hole.

*  ‘Par’ means how many times a good golfer would hit the ball to get it into the hole. So if a hole is ‘Par 3’ a good golfer could get from tee to hole in three strokes. My personal best for this Very First Game was four strokes. Worst? Ohheyletsstopcounting.

*  Uh, did you know that some golf courses have separate tee areas for women?! That are easier?! RUDE.

* Golf carts are the most fun to drive. Particularly if you yell “Zeeeeewwwwm!” while doing so.

* These games are loooooong, dudes. Like, nine holes took us 3.5 hours. Granted, there were four of us and I spent a lot of time chopping my ball out of the weeds, but it was quite the time commitment.

Have you ever played golf? And if you have, how do I become less awful? 

P.S. That time I went to a batting cage and That time I ran a 5k.

*it’s a really long list.