1. Axel's. "You know," I said to the Bryant Lake Bowl audience on Thursday, "Minnesota is nothing like the movie, Fargo," because I hadn't run into anyone as eccentric or at least accented like the characters in the Coen Brothers film. The BLB audience assured me that Fargo was closer to the truth than I had witnessed in my short time in the state, an assertion that was confirmed when I had dinner with Brandon, his mom, and Kellie at Axel's, a fancy steak and seafood restaurant in Mendota, a town with a population of 197, just south of St. Paul. The waitress spoke with the accent and carried Minnesota Nice in every pore on her face. In the car after dinner tonight, Brandon told me to run back in so I could interview her for this blog, but I have to be up at 4:30 tomorrow morning to catch a plane to New York. This bitch is tired.
2. Dixie's. Sunday Champagne Brunch here is a real culinary treat, made even more complete with a glorious chocolate fountain that you could dip strawberries in. You know how much I love fountains of chocolate, so you can imagine the way my eyes practically popped out of my sockets when I walked into the restaurant. Brandon, Kellie, and I were joined by Brandon's friend, Shane, who works at the theater that A Prairie Home Companion is recorded in. A Bamboo Nation reader suggested I go to taping—apparently not enough people have heard me do my impression of the show, a show which grates on my nerves the way dithering old people sometimes regale you with jokes that were funny mmmmmaybe back in the 1930s.
3. Guthrie Theater. This monstrous, nine-story, architecturally stunning monument to American theater was the site of the Asian American Theater Conference (the main reason I'm here), where artists and administrators from around the country convened to work through pretty much the same issues that we've been talking about ever since I started in the theater; where Brandon and I presented Jukebox Stories to an extremely enthusiastic, raucous, mostly Asian audience ("It was as if I had always known you as the shy high school nerd," Brandon observed, "who suddenly transformed into the most popular kid at school"); and where I made some kick-ass, invaluable connections, which means the show you've been hearing so much about may be coming to a city near you. I of course spent lots of time with East West Players' literary manager Jeff Lui, my intellectual twin and co-star of The Prince and Jeff Show, a spectacle that happens pretty much whenever the two of us are in public together and there are other people to indulge our sometimes seemingly endless rants and spats. But I also forged strong, new-ish bonds with actor/producer Ewan Chung, playwright Judy Soo Hoo, and scholar Amanda Rogers, who happily joined Jeff and me in our incendiary escapades and depraved conversations. We clung together like frightened asylum guards in the middle of an inmate riot. Ewan, by the way, is so complementary to Jeff and me, in terms of personality and appearance, that I'm anticipating a spin-off called The Prince and Jeff and Ewan Show. You see, I don't mind sharing the spotlight as long as I always get the last word and as long as I get to interrupt proceedings (like I did throughout the conference) by standing up, pointing a finger in the sky, and screaming, "This is an outrage!" The conference was loads of fun, a creatively and intellectually stimulating playground that I'm already nostalgic for. It was like a truncated adult summer camp in Minneapolis.
4. Harry's Food & Cocktail. A reader recommended the dripping excess of the Gay Nineties Theatre Cafe, but it was too far from our base, the Holiday Inn Metrodome. Tired from walking on Friday night, not anywhere near the Gay Nineties, and in desperate need of a drink, Amanda ran ahead of us and slipped into the first place with booze that we passed by, the Eagle, which happened to be a rough leather daddy bar. I knew I would be very popular there and could probably make some money, but, despite what you may think, I shudder at the thought. We opted for Harry's across the street, where I declared, "I will have a SHIRLEY TEMPLE!" I refuse to have the shame I used to have.
[To be continued....]