Rooting Against the Home Team

Seven Minnesota authors pen poison Valentines to the place we call home

I am driving through the Warehouse District when I see two of you deep in conversation on the sidewalk. As I get closer, you move to street's edge and (I can't believe this is happening) you walk into the road without looking, directly into the path of my Japanese-manufactured death machine.

Are you sensory-deprived? Suicidal? No and no, I presume. Have you experienced a one-time lapse in caution, a unique mental hiccup never to be repeated? Hell, no.

You approach me on Nicollet outside downtown and ask, if I'm heading south, how far I might be able to drive you toward Edina.

Charlie Alan Kraft

You leave your keys in the gas tank while you go into SuperAmerica for a pack of Marlboros.

You insist on paying me for a parking pass I no longer need, meaning that I park for free while you're out three bucks.

You crowd me at the ATM, unaware that I think you're trying to steal my PIN.

Don't get me wrong. I don't consider you naive. I don't think you're unsophisticated. I don't buy into all that coastal vs. flyover-country crap.

It's just that you trust the world.

I chalk it up to the whole good-life mentality up here, where the walleye practically fry themselves in tasty batter and where the police helpfully offer burglary prevention advice such as lock your windows when you go to sleep at night. Don't take this the wrong way. I'm two generations removed from the farm, but in my case it's of the Kentucky-gothic variety, with weird stories of gangrene and hatchet-wielding, and relatives disappearing to the wilds of cities where they were never heard from again.

You might not want to be friends with me, but you trust me. Come on, admit it. You want to, because the world is a benevolent place and, really, isn't it easier this way?

And yet the world I live in is full of malevolence, perfidy, hypocrisy, and all manner of schemes and scams. I understand you think it's kind of pathetic and wretched to see things this way, and you find it hard to deal with me when I go all big-city paranoid. But jeez, you know, I saw your life flash in front of my eyes when you opened your car door this afternoon. What would have happened if I hadn't been looking out for you?


Quinton Skinner is the author of 14 Degrees Below Zero and Amnesia Nights; he is working on the authorized biography of Tupac Shakur.

"No Reason to "Cross the River. "We've Got Everything "We Need Over Here."


When my wife and I moved to the Twin Cities 25 years ago and established ourselves in St. Paul, the neighbor who lived next door to us--an older woman with a fondness for pink hair curlers--mentioned the fact in passing that she hadn't been across the river to Minneapolis since--well, it had been so long she couldn't even remember.

"No reason to cross the river," she went on with provincial pride. "We've got everything we need over here."

I thought this an odd, even quaint sentiment, and smiled indulgently.

Shortly thereafter I got a job in Minneapolis working at the University of Minnesota. I soon discovered co-workers to whom the idea of crossing the river to St. Paul was on the same par as a trip to Outer Mongolia. This baffled me. I'd come from Denver, Colorado, where there's nothing, really, to denote the passage from one municipality to another except perhaps a small, easily overlooked sign.

A river made a big difference, it seemed.

We define ourselves in part by the life decisions we've made. Where we choose to live is a big one, and we want it to reflect as radiantly as possible on who we are. It's important to think highly of the city where we've chosen to reside. Sometimes, however, defending that choice escalates into taking potshots at our neighbors on the far side of the Mississippi. The exchange goes something like this:

* Minneapolis has culture.

* St. Paul has character.

* Minneapolis has great restaurants.

* St. Paul has great neighborhoods.

* Minneapolis has beautiful new skyscrapers.

* St. Paul has preserved its architectural heritage.

* Minneapolis has a major crime problem.

* St. Paul's street numbering system is intelligible only to drunken Irishmen.


The barrage goes on, insults thrown across the river like rocks from a catapult.

It's ridiculous, this provincial snobbery. As someone who came from the outside, I can see this clearly. But okay, I admit to succumbing to it now and again myself. When I'm on a book tour, I'm often asked where I'm from. Usually I reply, "The Twin Cities." If someone is present who's from Minneapolis, I always hasten to add, "I'm actually from St. Paul. The good side of the river."

The Mississippi River divides more than just the land. It divides good from bad, smart from dumb, beautiful from homely. How you see this all depends upon something as arbitrary as the side of the river on which you stand.

Go figure.


William Kent Krueger is the author of Mercy Falls (the fifth book in the Cork O'Connor series), Blood Hollow, The Devil's Bed, and other novels.

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