One of the reasons I was traipsing around the US and Canada from May to June was a Points of Light Conference happening at St. Paul, Minnesota. I was thrilled to be chosen to go, and except for a quick trip to Chicago, I have not really been to the American Midwest. It was spring, the best time to check out these parts that are infamous for their brutal winters.
I was luckily billeted in a hotel that was right smack in the middle of everything. In no time, I learned the town’s history. St. Paul is the state capital of Minnesota. With neighboring Minneapolis, it forms the “Twin Cities.” The Minnesota State Capitol was designed by Cass Gilbert and was inspired by the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It is surrounded by lush verdant parks with flowers abloom in time for our arrival. A poignant bronze memorial of Charles Lindbergh will hold you off so you can read his wisdom etched in stone. A few blocks away is the Minnesota History Center and the Cathedral of St. Paul, a Roman Catholic church on top of a hill overlooking the city. An easy afternoon walk was enough to cover these main points of interest.
The conference venue was right across the Science Museum of Minnesota, which I frequented. It had this gorgeous view of the Mississippi River out back. Only recently did we have science museums back home, not while I was growing up, unfortunately. But I think I spent more time at the gift shop during breaks, which had all these cool things I happily bought for a 5-year-old nephew who wants to be a pilot.
A few blocks to the city center is Rice Park, where bronze statues of F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby) and the Peanuts comic strip characters created by Charles M. Schulz would pop out of nowhere. At lunchtime, it is lined by food trucks serving a cacophony of exotic flavors, from Korean to Texan barbecue. It is in between the public library and the Landmark Center, a historic building that used to be a post office and federal courthouse where John Dillinger and his cohorts in crime were tried. It is now an arts and culture center that houses the Schubert Club Museum of Musical Instruments, an auspicious discovery for a classically trained musician such as yours truly. It was my first time to play on a Bechstein built in 1898 and a 1940s Wurlitzer. An explosion of the senses was happening, but I did well in keeping that a secret.
In the same neighborhood, good finds are hard to miss, such as the local Heimie’s Haberdashery that will teleport you into the jazz age, and looks like a Saville Row counterpart I would gladly travel 8000 miles for if I were a guy. It is a welcome reminder that men still dress up. Close by is the St. Paul’s Grille where I had a hearty burger with all the trimmings. This is another St. Paul hotspot I went back to more than once.
A couple of tickets to a Twins game were being raffled off at the conference, and they were playing the Boston Red Sox. And boy, do I love the Red Sox, especially after last year’s epic World Series win. I am one of those oddball Filipinos who don’t like basketball very much but love a complex human chess game that involves 9 innings. So with a very slim chance of winning, I bought one ticket via StubHub, took off after the cocktail hour, and rushed to Target Center in Minneapolis. The ballpark looked stunning, with the sun setting in this lovely balmy weather. Good vibes all around, though with more seats emptying around me. My team won, and I could not be happier.
History, art, science, literature, music, Prince, Bob Dylan, and sports — the stuff that gives life meaning. They have it all in Minnesota. I bade goodbye to the Twin Cities with an ear-to-ear grin.