(Part 1 of this series: Newport, OR)
Oct. 10 – 12: Minneapolis, MN
Here is an embarrassing fact about what happens when you grow up in Southern California: You know little about the rest of the country. You know that 49 other states exist. You know that Hawaii is out in the ocean and Alaska is way up over past Canada. You understand where Oregon and Washington are, maybe Nevada if you have the kind of friends that drag you to Vegas on occasion. And Florida anchors a corner of the country, so you have that one. But a distant respect for New York City isn’t enough to have a sense of exactly where the state that houses it can be found on a map. The states in the middle? Forget it.
I’d add, “Or maybe that’s just me,” but I know too many other SoCalifornians who suffer from the same cluelessness regarding American geography. All of which is to say, I went to Minneapolis for the first time and twice had to take a beat when talking about the trip.
“So you’ll be in Minnesota,” someone said.
“Yes…?” I answered.
“So you’re going to the Midwest!” someone said.
“Yes…?” I answered.
To be clear, I am the idiot here – I should know where places are and a bit about them, especially if I’m going to spend a few nights there. Minneapolis was cool! At least the area around my hotel was, which was near U.S. Bank stadium and Mill Ruins Park. (The park interprets the history of flour milling in Minneapolis and shows the ruins of several flour mills that were abandoned.) After the first day of the workshop that had brought me there, I spent a balmy fall evening enjoying the sights – whoa, the Mississippi River?! – and exploring the Open Book literary center, where I bought several little zines and cards to send to friends.
The workshop, about the role of recycling in reducing plastic pollution, expanded my understanding of the pressures recyclers face, including the ongoing problems with “wishcycling.” People, stop putting non-recyclable stuff – like plastic bags! – into the recycling bin! You’re junking up the system! We also talked about issues usually outside the scope of Surfrider’s work, such as the social justice concerns facing waste pickers and how they fit into efforts to reduce plastic pollution. I left grateful for the conversations and determined to bring a more holistic understanding to my own work.
Finally, since I had an extra morning, I Ubered over to Paisley Park. I expected it to be cool. I did not anticipate being awash in nostalgia and desire and, intermittently, some grief. The sadness of losing such a brilliant artist. The fact that Prince’s songs soundtracked my most impressionable years. To be surrounded by his music brought me back to those vulnerable times and I ached for the teenager I was – and yet, now as then, those songs lifted me, made me smile, reminded me that we all are trying to get through this thing called life and one of the best ways to do so is to dance your ass off. Here’s to that.