Mr. St. Paul, where are you?

Jim McClear (left photo)

It's been getting quite a bit of press for an obscure, somewhat shallow, civic contest. "One Man Minneapolis," it's called: "20 incredible men" selected from hundreds of applicants, competing to be the man "best representing the Twin Cities in the categories of fitness, community involvement, personality, and intelligence."

Coming from the east side of the Mississippi, I can promise you that, contrary to what the website states, this winner won't represent St. Paul. You'd think organizers would know this, having chosen the title "One Man Minneapolis." Not that we St. Paulites have anything against the handsome young studs throwing their hats into the ring for this $5,000 prize. It's just that they're not the ideal fit for the old town.

I've looked them over, as anyone can by visiting, and the first strike against them is they're all going for the cover-boy look. That look would get you bounced from a Mr. St. Paul contest. We'd demand a face that looked like you'd done a little more living, maybe even took a punch somewhere along the line. We'd want to see some character lines and a hint of regret in your eyes that said a few things in life hadn't gone your way.

We wouldn't ask for your height and weight as the Minneapolis contest does. Short and fat works for us. We'd instead see if you had a soul. Not the one given all life, but a soul born from shedding a false persona somewhere along the line, exposing a vulnerable, flat-footed, human being.

"One Man Minneapolis" nobly stresses community involvement, though I've come across two versions of this in my life: one, where you remain near your own strata, sipping fine wine and eating exotic cheese while raising money for the homeless; and the other, where you walk into the weird neighbor lady's garbage house and hold your nose while helping others drag refuse to the alley. They both have admirable results. But one is a bit easier on the senses and comes with business networking opportunities.

Personality and intelligence are stressed in "One Man Minneapolis." However, personality can be tricky to judge. It can play wonderfully at the Pantages Theater, where final judging for this contest will take place, but come across poorly at a bus stop on the East Side. It may make for a winning combination during intermission at the Guthrie, but will it sell with an old Hmong woman on University Avenue?

As for intelligence, which type are we talking about: emotional, interpersonal, linguistic, visual-spatial, musical? I have friends who value kinesthetic intelligence, the best St. Paul example being Joe Mauer.

Now, when it comes to smarts, I always like to include the smart-ass. Skills in this area are honed growing up in the Capital City. A good smart-ass knows how to level the playing field in any room he walks into. This ability is a valued part of the arsenal for the metro's "Second City" citizens. I'd be delighted if a few smart-asses showed up at the Pantages.

If I were to create my ideal recipe for Mr. Twin Cities, I'd grab the 20 well-scrubbed contestants at "One Man Minneapolis" and add a measure of Charles Bukowski, the L.A. street poet. Instantly they'd appear as deeper thinkers, less puppet-like physical specimens, more down-to-earth, wily in character. Like Bukowski, they'd cotton to Mozart, but also to horse betting; dive bars, but also Schopenhauer. Women would like them, but not for their looks, and for community involvement they'd wipe the ass of at least one dying cancer patient.

At night they'd sit alone on their back porch listening to the crickets in the yard, and to the kids getting ready for bed in the bathroom upstairs. They'd smile wistfully, thinking about the wife they have, and the girl they let get away 20 years earlier. Slowly, tears would form, from some elusive grief. They'd light a little tobacco and close their eyes. In the darkness they'd hear their father's ghosts nearby, humming softly in the moonlight. And silently, they'd hum along.

Tough to work all this into a contest, I know. But that's why we don't have them in St. Paul. 

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