Monday, May 01, 2006


Oink Point Road

Perhaps the best street name I've ever encountered is just off Route 10 between Brainerd and New York Mills, Minnesota: Oink Point Road. I wonder who named that particular road, and what mood they were in on that particular day. I can only assume that pigs had something to do with it. As I learned the other day in Iowa City, pigs outnumber people in Iowa. Perhaps they do out here in rural Minnesota as well.

My performance last night in Minneapolis was at the Acadia Cafe with Brianna Lane and Alicia Wiley. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed listening to Brianna and Alicia as much or more than I enjoyed performing, and I love to perform. Definitely check these fine musicians out. Acadia's back performance space is a great listening room, with tiered seating and candles. I received one of the most complimentary descriptions of my music from one of the people who came out last night. Travis Lund is a music fan, Minneapolis native, percussionist, drummer and guitarist. His description of my songs from my CD Favorite was: "Lock Ani Difranco in a room for a year with nothing but Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch records, then make her write an album, and this is what you'll get." Thank you, Travis. That one goes in the press kit.

Minnesota is the state with the second largest amount of funding for the arts, second only to New York. Which perhaps explains why a state-of-the-art cultural center exists in the middle of this picture-imperfect farm town. This place is a real town, almost ugly in its utilitarianism. Buildings were built as they were needed, not to impress some potential tourist base coming from the big city (or as they refer to Minnesota's main metro area, "the Cities"). The town lies in the midst of miles and acres of farmland. There's one main street that's about two blocks long and has one hardware store, one coffee shop, one diner, and the one mechanic in town. Its the kind of town I have seen in the movies, but never really encountered. This city girl is a long way from home.

I arrived in New York Mills early this morning. I awoke too early (again) at the Motel 6 in Minneapolis, and though I had intentions of wandering around Minneapolis to see the sights, it was raining hard, and I figured I'd be better off getting a jump start on the 3.5 hour drive out to New York Mills. (The locals call this town "Mills," which I think I'll start doing. The "New York" gets rather cumbersome, especially considering how different it is from the New York I'm most familiar with.)

In any case, at the Cultural Center Director's instructions, I drove over the railroad tracks and two blocks down Main Avenue to find a tiny bungalow painted bright gold with a red door. It's perfectly proportioned for one artist--and about twice the size of my apartment in Brooklyn. The keys to the front door have been lost over the years, so the visitor enters through the rear, passing the picturesquely dilapidated garage shack. The back door leads into a bright kitchen painted white with brown and white parquet floors and a pale yellow table and chair. It's about three times the size of my Brooklyn kitchen. Off the kitchen is a small office area, where I'm writing now. The office is lined with floor-to-ceiling shelves that hold the cast-off treasures and detritus of the 80+ artists who have been residents here. Highlights include a small flat window-pane like sculpture made from six colored popsicle sticks that reads: "Non-Functioning Xyloexplosive Device #1 by Tim Fort (King of the Kinetic World) 8-2-05 - 9-2-05," a wire sculture in the shape of an abstract mole, issues of Vogue dating back to 2001, and various art supplies that have collected item by mismatched item.

Through the kitchen is a bright white living-room-type space which I've turned into my music room. It's got a large window, an armchair, stereo, and a large white drafting desk that holds pride of place in the center of the room under the window. Note that there is no TV. I'm about to lose my main medium of procrastination. I'm curious to see what happens to me without television to resort to. Perhaps I'll actually write. I've moved the quill and ink that I found in the office to the music room just in case it's the right writing implement for the occasional historical song, and I've set up all my guitar and music stands. Notebooks and pens are lined up at write angles on the desk, and my guitars wait in their cases till I unveil them later today. It feels like once I get the guitars out, then there's no more procrastination allowed. So, now I sit here writing in this blog, and not writing in my notebook. At some point, I'll press "publish post" and then I'll have no more excuses. For now, let's continue our tour.

To the left of the music room is a small and delightfully welcoming bedroom with a queen-sized bedand an armchair. The small bathroom is off the bedroom. Straight ahead and through the living room is a small indoor porch-like room that is painted deep sun yellow and has a large abstract tree sculpture made from blue wood tube like pieces connected into branches, an easel, a folding screen that barely fits in the small space, and a couple of pillows on one of which a bumble bee seemed to be on its sleepy way towards dying this afternoon. The walls are covered with glyphics, figures, and images contributed by various visitors including an upside-down human figure in violet blue and southwestern-styled paintings of snakes lining the door frame. On one wall a collection of small square ziploc bags are nailed in perfect columns, each bag containing a small object or colection of objects, a plastic skull, wooden beads, dried herb, a feather...

This afternoon I went to the supermarket to stock my kitchen and had my first real encounter with the cultural differences between New York City and New York Mills. This pretty much captures it: there was no brown rice. Okay, I admit that they did carry Uncle Ben's bastardized version of what they claim was once rice, and it was brown-colored. [Sidenote: I refuse to buy Uncle Ben's, and I try not to eat it if I can help it. It seems like the corporate Uncle purposefully took all the flavor and nutrients out of their rice in order to sell it. Lord knows how that's helped them sell it.] But, if the shelves of this rather large supermarket say anything, it's that overpackaged, under-nutriented food is all the rage here. Lots of national brands, cardboard and plastic packaging are the theme at this supermarket. A lot of meat. A lot of butter-substitutes. Not nearly as much produce. No whole grains. All the yoghurts are chock-a-block full of corn syrup. The produce aisle took up only one half of one side of one aisle. No wonder this country has health problems. How I crave Trader Joe's right now. For those of you who have not experienced the bliss of a grocery shopping experience that is Trader Joe's, I can't recommend it highly enough. In any case, I still managed to rack up quite a food-shopping bill here in rural Minnesota, as I suffer from the perennial food-shopping curse of my eyes being bigger than my stomach.

And since my tiny fridge is now full, and my blog has been updated and then some, it is time to go write. No more excuses. The music awaits.

So happy to read this. Have a wonderful write. I'm out in St. Paul this weekend; it will be my first time there, and I'm kind of curious to see what it's like.
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