In Subterranean Twin Cities (University of Minnesota Press), geologist, historian, and urban speleologist Greg Brick takes a look at the fascinating—and very real—world below our Minnesota feet. The underground is rich with tales to tell, and Brick tours a surprising variety of caves, tunnels, and underground rivers on his expeditions. Many shed light on history above ground as well. For example, some of the manmade caves used for beer brewing, cheese aging, and mushrooming map out the history of local food businesses and the ever-changing palate of the population. Other caves that were once used for liquor running are now, perhaps fittingly, hot spots for teen drinking. Others are shrouded in mystery after fatal amateur explorations. Then there's Mystic Caverns, a 1930s nightclub once known for its glowing skull sign, 2,000 mirrors, and nude fan dancer Sally Rand. Eventually shut down by the police for being a "subterranean casino," the club was later converted into a storage space for potatoes. By the time Brick visited, it was covered in graffiti, offering nary a hint of its scandalous past. He states: "It had been stripped bare, like the fan dancers who had wowed crowds more than half a century earlier." Subterranean is a book loaded with wit, local history, and adventure, proving that much more lays beneath the surface than the sewage we flush.
Tue., July 14, 7 p.m., 2009