Just A Couple of Social Butterflies

May 2, 2019   //   by bwilber   //   Bob's Blog  //  Add a Comment

I don’t know when it started. I don’t recall having an epiphany and a corresponding conversation about getting out more and enjoying the many great things we can continually experience here. We live in a great place, in a wonderful part of the country, but with some of the harsh weather we can have it’s easy to slip into a phase where you just turn on the fireplace and watch TV. And that’s a shame, because you can do that anywhere. We live in the Twin Cities. This is not just “anywhere” and at some point in the last few months Barbara and I have found ourselves not just accepting more invites but seeking out new adventures and fun experiences. And it’s been a very rich thing. It’s on us to keep it up, and we’re having a ton of fun doing it, so why wouldn’t we?

It may have started with the construction of the Alamo Draft House here in Woodbury. Maybe that was the catalyst. The Alamo Draft House finally got me back in the mood to actually go see movies in a theater. For decades, I had been adamantly anti-theater. Why? Because, by and large, people are rude and inconsiderate in public places. I recall seeing a movie in Southern California, in the late 1990s. I had been avoiding theaters for many years before then, but accepted an invite to go see a movie I now cannot remember. What I do remember was the group sitting directly behind us in a packed room.

They brought horribly smelly sandwiches in with them, and they were wrapped in crinkly (noisy) cellophane. It was beyond obnoxious, and they talked a lot too. As if they were home. And they weren’t alone. It seemed everyone in the theater thought they were in their living rooms at home. That was it. I couldn’t stand the experience.

As of late, theaters have been adding reclining seats and many are allowing you to purchase specific reserved seats online. But I’m still hypersensitive to people who make noise. For the last 30 years I’ve probably watched 99% of all the movies I’ve seen right here at home. And now that we have a super-duper incredible home theater, there’s really no reason to go out.

But then the Alamo opened and Barbara managed to drag me there one night. Reserved recliner seats, servers bringing food and drink to your chairs, and an incredible sound system. That’s all great, and the sound system is something I can’t duplicate at home, no matter how good our theater is, but the clincher was in the rules. Before the movie starts at Alamo, they make an announcement. No phones, no noise, no talking, and no misbehaving. You get one warning. After that, you’ll be ejected from the theater with no refund. And it’s in a stern voice, too. It generally works.

So that got us out a little more, which is a good thing. We love to eat out, and do so multiple times a week, and we still get together with friends when we can, but something was building and it was fun.

The key next step was discovering The Dakota, in Minneapolis. Barbara had been there once without me, but our first show there was Livingston Taylor (his brother is that cat named James). We were hooked. We’ve now seen five or six shows there in just the last couple of months. And it’s in downtown Minneapolis, which is a key. You have to commit to getting there. The shows are at night and it’s likely you’ll have to battle a ton of traffic to make the trip from out here in Woodbury. You can easily spend an hour in rush hour traffic. In other words, you have to want it and you have to make the effort.

We’ve also discovered that our longtime friends Terry and Lynn Blake share one important characteristic with us. They’re completely impulsive and spontaneous. None of us in our large circle of friends are afraid to text and say “We’re going to Crave for dinner in 10 minutes. Want to join us?” More times than not, we’ll get together like that on a total whim, and we’ve done it a number of times with the Blakes. It’s a fun way to get off your butt and do something, and they’re wonderfully fun friends. Our entire large group of close friends, here in Woodbury, are wonderful and fun. That’s why we’re all friends. Laughter means more to us than just about anything. We’re very fortunate to be surrounded by such amazing people.

So this past week has been a continuation of all that, although we did not have tickets to anything at Dakota. There are some shows we want to see coming up, though, so we’ll be back soon enough. What we did since last Thursday is as follows: We did, indeed, meet the Blakes at Crave on a whim, on Friday night. We attended a beautiful wedding and a wonderful reception on Saturday. We went to the Twins game on Sunday, for Barb’s birthday, and then had dinner at a fantastic place in downtown Minneapolis. We ate out at our favorite Woodbury bistro on Monday. And last night, we attended a private function at the Minnesota History Center in downtown St. Paul, as guests of Baird, an investment, banking, and financial company celebrating its 100th birthday. And now here I am writing this blog.

Father/Daughter dance. They grow up so fast! (Click on any image to enlarge)

We didn’t bother to take pics at Crave on Friday, so we’ll start with Saturday. The wedding was wonderful. As I mentioned last week, Mitch and Kristy Martin lived two doors down from us at our previous Woodbury home. Their daughter Ellen was just a little girl when we met them.

The wedding was at a beautiful church and everything about it was so well done. In addition, it was my favorite kind of ceremony. It was fast! Ellen looked enchanting, her new husband Ian and his guys made what I think is the best classy move in terms of apparel. They wore matching wedding suits instead of tuxedos. Everyone looked marvelous, and so happy.

The reception was at a place in White Bear Lake, not too far from the wedding. Again, everything about it was magical and so enjoyable. Plus, the weather forecast had been nothing short of dire for a couple of days, including calls for 1-3 inches of snow. Yikes! As you can see in the outdoor photo during the Father/Daughter dance, the forecasts were wrong. The clouds dissipated, the sun came out, and more magic was at hand.

The best part of it, though, was the company. Most of our best friends were there, because we all lived in the Marsh Creek neighborhood together and we all watched Ellen and her sisters grow up. This is why we made the commitment to move back here after our four years out in Spokane. This is home. You can have all the beautiful views you want, or enjoy cosmopolitan cities, or live in a mansion. You can’t fabricate friends, and this group is so special. The best group of friends we’ve ever had. This is home. And despite things like mid-April blizzards, it’s a wonderful place to live. This is “quality of life” and that’s why we knew we’d be back. We are continually happy to be home.

Barb got a birthday hug from her fuzzy friend TC Bear

Sunday was Barbara’s birthday, and since she again wanted to go to a Twins game we decided to make it a full day in Minneapolis. An afternoon ballgame, followed by dinner at a place we’d never been before.

As you can see, Barbara got special birthday wishes and a hug from the Twins mascot, TC Bear. He’s a great ambassador for the team and funny as can be, which is always a challenge for people in costumes who aren’t allowed to talk. I’ve never done this sort of thing, but I think it must be fun and I’d imagine you’d have to be acting it out with all the same facial expressions and emotive gestures when you’re in there. Right?

Trivia time: Why is the Twins mascot a bear and why is he named TC?

Well, the second part should be easy. When the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota in 1961, they wanted to identify with the entire state, not just Minneapolis and St. Paul. The Twin Cities, though, would be home for the club and that’s why they’re the Twins. Their hat logo is the iconic intertwined “TC”.

Why a bear? When the Twins arrived, one of their first major sponsors both at old Metropolitan Stadium and on the radio (WCCO) was Hamm’s Beer. Hamm’s was quite popular up here “in the land of sky blue water” and they used a cartoonish bear as a marketing tool. Beer – Bear. TC is loosely based on the old Hamm’s bear. He’s great, but he’s actually pretty young. He was introduced to Twins fans in 2000, I think. He’s enormously popular. And yes, he wears the same jersey and cap the team is wearing for each game. The team has alternate jerseys, and can you guess how they pick which one they’re going to wear?  The starting pitcher generally gets to select whether they wear white, blue, or red. You can see which one they were wearing on Sunday.

After the game, which the Twins won, we headed through downtown to get to dinner. We’d made the strategic decision to park close to the restaurant, rather than by Target Field. That way, after dinner we could just walk a block to the car instead of the eight or nine blocks we’d have to traverse to get back near the ballpark. It worked like a charm.

Even on a late Sunday afternoon, downtown Minneapolis was hopping. We had to walk through the theater district to get to the restaurant, and the crowds on the sidewalk were lined up to see the shows at the various venues. At the biggest theater, The Orpheum, it was “Hello Dolly!”


Dinner was at Hell’s Kitchen. No, it’s not affiliated with Gordon Ramsay’s place in Las Vegas. Hell’s Kitchen in Minneapolis actually predates Ramsay’s place by many years. And it’s really unique. You enter at street level and immediately head downstairs to the basement. The whole place is down there, and it’s pretty big. Barb got a glimpse of the kitchen and she said it was really impressive, and nothing short of huge. And, the restaurant staff was waiting for her. They put a “Happy Birthday” sign on our table.

It was 4:30 on a Sunday. One might think at such a time any restaurant located in a basement might be sparsely filled. It wasn’t packed when we got there, but by the time we left it sure looked like most of the tables were full.

Great food and drinks, too. Scratch made comfort food, with nothing too exotic but all incredibly tasty. We will return. For any of you who might happen to be in Minneapolis anytime soon, I recommend it wholeheartedly.

On Monday night, we had dinner at Angelina’s Kitchen, right here in the Woodbury bubble. Yes, it’s great that we’re getting out and about more (like ALL THE WAY over to Minneapolis) but when you have a bistro this fabulous exactly two minutes from home, it’s an asset. The food is always off the chart, the staff is incredible, and they usually have some music being played. It’s normally a gentleman in a bowler hat playing the piano, but on this night it was a young lady playing the guitar and singing. And she was really good. A little shy maybe, but really good. And then our server told us she was in eighth grade. WOW! Imagine that…

OK, on Tuesday Barb had some appointments after work so I had a pizza delivered. Some nights it’s fine to scarf down a thin-crust pepperoni and black olive pizza while watching the ballgame.

Wednesday, it was off to St. Paul for the Baird function. I’d never heard of Baird and never been to the Minnesota History Center, but we were both looking forward to this event.

Baird, I learned, is 100 years old and still privately owned. They’re big in the financial world and do some work with HB Fuller, the company Barbara works for. So, she was invited to this shindig. I got to tag along. The whole museum was reserved for this event, and it was amazing. As Baird’s Chairman of the Board said, during a brief reception, “No sales tonight, no clients, just friends celebrating our 100th birthday with us. Enjoy!”

The catering was off the hook and everything was complimentary. The “star” of the show was a new exhibit the museum is about to open to the public. We got a sneak peek!

The actual purple suit from the movie. It’s hard not to get a tear in your eye just seeing it.

The street First Avenue runs through downtown Minneapolis. The club, First Avenue, has been a music hot spot for decades, outliving dozens of other such venues that come and go on the whims of musical tastes. First Ave has survived it all. The exhibit is all about First Ave. Its secrets, the bands who played there well before becoming famous, and of course the one artist who basically called it home. Minnesota’s own Prince. Much of his movie “Purple Rain” was filmed there.

Everything about the exhibit was fabulous, and very enlightening. Everyone here knows about First Ave but much of its history predates our arrival in Minnesota. I actually knew about it from the movie, but never saw it in person until we landed here in 2002. It’s got a glorious history, with many ups and downs as music styles changed. It also has a secondary venue within the building (which was originally the Greyhound Bus Depot). There’s a door around the corner on 7th street. It’s called the 7th Street Entrance, and it’s a tiny little club for smaller acts. You know, groups you never heard of.  Like U2. Yes, they played in the 7th Street Entrance venue. Amazing.

So, that’s been our week. It’s been an enormously fun one. We’re going to keep this up. There’s still so much more to do, more to see, and more to experience. This is a wonderful place to live. It’s home.

I’ll see you next week. Who knows what tales will be told. Just keep this in mind: Whatever age you are (I’m 62) get out and do stuff. Try new things. Make an effort. Just say yes, on a whim even. Take a walk. Go for a drive. Visit a park. Ride your bike. Or maybe find a small music venue and fall in love with it.

As always, if you read this installment and thought it was OK, please click on the “Like” button at the top. Prince would want that. Maybe. Probably not.

Bob Wilber, at your service and enjoying life.

I’ll just leave this right here…

Greetings from Minnesota. A selfie by Barbara Doyle



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