Tag Archives: Minneapolis

Cultivate Festival…From The Outside.

Another Photography On The Citadel

Howdy all,

Sorry for the slight delay for this post, had some reports to transcribe…and I forgot I still had pictures for you.

Anyway, after our trip to Duluth, Vanna and I finished our anniversary week (I realize this was a while back now…) with a visit to her grandparents in the cities. On Friday we went to a car show, and then on Saturday we attended the Cultivate Festival in Minneapolis.

Well…sort of attended it. Because of the crazy amount of people going to the festival, we ended up parking over a mile from the park venue. After a long walk – humidity and heat only made it feel longer – we eventually arrived late to a jam-packed Loring park. The thousands of people did not deter Sharissa or Vanna, but it was too much for me, especially as I already wasn’t that keen on the festival…

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A Very Special Weekend

Howdy all,

Wow, what a busy few days I’ve had! Well, not that hectic I suppose, but considering yesterday was the first day I’ve been home for more than just sleep since last Thursday, I think my weekend counts as being significantly eventful! I had hoped to cover some of the things I missed in my last post (our trip to Wilmer for example), but I simply haven’t had the time. So much responsibility…it’s tiring.

But enough whinging. I’m here now…so what have I been doing?

Wedding!

On Saturday, I was honoured to be a groomsman for my good friend Dacotah, who was getting married to his lovely fiancé Mkaila. It was effectively a two-day event; Friday was the dress rehearsal, BBQ and bachelor/stag party, Saturday the ceremony, dinner and reception. A few hiccups aside, everything went perfectly. The ceremony was beautiful and the after party was a lot of fun. And both the bride and groom were very happy, which I believe is the most important thing when it comes to weddings. I know, big surprise, right?

From my perspective, there were no problems. I had some minor issues finding pants that fit (apparently they think people with a waist over 34 inches are super short) but thankfully my outfit was ready in time. I wasn’t a big fan of the bow tie and suspenders (I have never worn either in my life) but they weren’t too bad (the suspenders were also a useful prop to disguise my non-dancing awkwardness with a terrible dancing move, which I guess is an improvement?) in the end. I don’t have any pictures at the moment but I hope to have some soon. I was actually the main attraction for one of the pre-wedding pictures (apparently I was the tallest person there by quite a distant…that’s all I’m saying though as I don’t want to ruin the surprise) so if I manage to get my hands on that, I’ll make sure to share it with you guys.

Otherwise, there isn’t much I can talk about, at least in terms of my experience. I drank too much the night before, but thankfully the wedding started at 6 (pictures at 4:30) so I had plenty of time to recover. Didn’t mess up in my groomsman duties either! Except for that day where I was the groom, I’m not very familiar with wedding-related responsibility…but yeah, I did all right on Saturday. I didn’t trip when I walked with one of the bridesmaids (always a concern, so pretty pleased to say I nailed my walk), made sure the groom did everything he needed to, met the required dancing quota etc. I also signed the wedding certificate as a witness (the best man had to go early as he has two young children; he’ll sign the framed version, however) and collected money for the dollar dance. This second responsibility did mean I had to dance more, but nevertheless I was very proud and honoured to be involved. Hopefully I’ll see Dacotah and Mkaila before they go to Maryland (they are going to live on the army base there) but if not, I wish them both the best for the future.

Oh, I had bear burger on Friday night too. Almost forgot about that. Very delicious. Preferred it to beef, which was an opinion I didn’t expect to have.

But uh, congratulations to the married couple.

Ahem.

Itching and Sleeping

Of course, the excitement doesn’t stop there. After a well-deserved, long, Sunday lie-in, Vanna and I went to her mother’s for dinner. Unfortunately I spent a fair amount of the afternoon sleeping thanks to the Benadryl capsules I had taken. Did I have allergies? Well, not quite. Somehow (I can’t stress how confused I am about this) I suffered a pretty bad outbreak of poison ivy late Saturday night. It was very random, or at least seemed that way. Suddenly during the wedding reception I felt itchy, checked my legs and discovered some huge lumps scattered between my knee and ankle. Surprise! I won’t go into too much detail so I don’t gross you out, but a few of them were…bad. Like really bad. It didn’t affect my night, but it’s fair to say I wasn’t very happy.

How did I get them? I honestly have no idea. I’d been wearing new socks and trousers all day and prior that, I’d barely left the house. Anya could have possibly brought in some of the oil, but it’s still a ridiculous response. Evidently I’m really sensitive to it, thus the skin on my legs is now covered in both itchy mosquito bites and itchy poison ivy. Isn’t that fantastic?

So yeah…that was my Sunday.

Doctor’s Appointment and Minneapolis

Early Monday morning, Vanna and I headed out to pick up our niece Marley Jo. After a failed trip to give blood (Vanna’s pulse was slightly above 100 and their new system stopped them from checking it again…how stupid is that?), we headed to the Doctors so I could see if there was anything I could do about my stupid poison ivy problem. Thirty minutes later, I was first depressed by the weight display on the scales, and then prescribed some steroid cream to help with the itching. So far it is working, though I remain concerned about another random outbreak. Guess we’ll have to see what happens.

With that done, Vanna and I parted ways. While she took Marley home, I accompanied our friend Meg (who we usually do things with on Monday) to pick up her boyfriend Larry from the airport. Largely uneventful journey, though we did have some minor worries about his flight when an announcer stated there was a severe weather warning in place. Thankfully he landed okay and we got out on time. It was nice going to an airport without the dread of departing for a change. Interestingly there were about ten people holding these big, colourful cardboard signs welcoming who we assumed to be foreign exchange students. Not wanting Larry to feel left out, I quickly scribbled his name onto a piece of A4. I must admit it wasn’t the most impressive sign, but I reckon he appreciated it.

On the return drive, we stopped at Noodles & Co, a chain pasta/noodle restaurant that I’ve never been to before. My inexperience meant I was easily overwhelmed with the choices so I just went for this salad bowl thing to avoid any complications. Typically there was then several complications; I made sure to request for any onions to be removed but, thinking that was the only vegetable I hated, I forgot to ask about mushroom. And of course there was more mushroom than meat in the bowl! Urgh, I detest mushrooms with a passion. However, after discovering they are supposedly building a Noodles & Co. in Brainerd, I decided I would be willing to try them again. Just need to pay more attention to what I’m ordering next time.

*sigh*

And that about concludes my activities. Tuesday morning I finally got home and napped (I slept on Meg and Larry’s couch Monday night; this wouldn’t have too bad but sirens and fighting cats kept me up for a while)…then tried to catch up on other things, such as my writing (sadly lost momentum on that), the job search (no luck yet), my gaming (can’t wait for Gears UE!) plus whatever else that required my attention. Chores, time with the wife, etc.

What next?

Well, the excitement is not over yet! Today catching up with my dad via Skype after his week on the Isle of Skye. Then in a couple of days we have the 4th of July holiday! I’m not entirely sure what parts of our initial plans are concrete, but I expect we’ll be busy from Friday to Monday. We’re just popular people, you see. Not sure how much of my day events will transfer to the blog, but I’ll do my best to have some cool stories, pictures etc. Failing that, I do have a new t-shirt  for the special occasion so that’s something to look forward to, right? Gotta keep up that 4th of July tradition!

Okay I should probably wrap this up for now. I’ll speak to you sometime next week when things die down.

Have a happy Independence Day!

Alex

Farewell Minnesota

Today is my final day in the US…where has the time gone? *sigh* In a few hours we’ll be heading to Minneapolis, and by 7:30pm I should (hopefully) be on the plane. Here are the details if you wish to follow my journey:

Minneapolis = Amsterdam

7:30pm, KLM 6064, arrives at Schipol 10:40am (Monday).

Amsterdam = Newcastle

12:15pm, KLM959, arrives at Newcastle 12:35pm.

Not too bad. I might plug in at Schipol to give an update. Or I might doze because I can’t sleep on planes. We’ll see.

Right then…I’ll see you all on the other side.

Alex

Emergent, Starset and TRIVIUM!

So we’re home and back to normalcy from our trip to the cities. You’ll be glad to hear (by jove I’m hilarious) my ears are fine again. The ringing stopped sometime yesterday afternoon so that’s certainly a relief. Mind you, not being able to hear too great had its advantages…hmm.

Anyway, the gig! Here’s a rough account of what happened Tuesday night.

Opening Impression

We were at Mill City Lights in downtown Minneapolis. Got into the venue without a problem, which was good considering it was cold and I was only wearing a t-shirt. It was a narrow but tall place; downstairs was the bar and merchandise area, ground floor was the performing area (or whatever you want to call it…not an arena but it was fairly big) and upstairs was the gallery overlooking the stage. I was quite impressed with it until I noticed…there were no seats!

You see, because I’m an old man I was hoping to sit down and watch, but the rectangular area by the stage was all standing and the gallery didn’t have chairs either; just metal bars to lean against. Except for at the back by the bar, where you wouldn’t be able to see anything, there were no seats whatsoever. Oh man, not a good start for me. Where am I supposed to sit?

With that undecided and with time to kill, we got ourselves a can of cider each. Want to guess the price for the two cans? I was thinking no more than ten dollars…nope, wrong! Fifteen! Woo! So we sat at the bar (not what I had in mind) and drank that while we waited for the first of our three bands…Emergent.

Emergent

Emergent, a local band, was really good (note: I’m probably going to use the wrong grammar a lot during this post. I know it is wrong, but I’m adamant it sounds better…so there we go. Just a heads up). We started watched from the gallery, but decided to go downstairs for a better view. Vanna and I liked them (I wasn’t expecting to like anyone except Trivium, so I was pleasantly surprised), and they were popular with everyone else too. The singer interacted with the crowd well, riling us up for Trivium and getting us to move, so they were definitely a good opening band.

Their songs had a good blend to them too. Along with the heavy metal parts to head-bang to (if that’s what you are into), there were also parts where those who didn’t know the lyrics (like myself) could sing along too (not that I did). Vanna was worried that the vocals would be drowned out by the drums and guitars (that was a big problem at her last gig), but thankfully that didn’t really happen, so it was an enjoyable performance. Good job Mill City Nights audio crew.

Anyway, back to Emergent. They were on for thirty minutes or so, and finished to lots of cheers and applause (they took a picture of the crowd at one point, but sadly we were off to the left and out of shot). And though I wasn’t moshing or bouncing around like everyone else, Emergent did set the mood for me too. I still stood out like a sore thumb (probably), but less so than before. Slowly but surely I was becoming a “live gig person” (though with terms like that, I might not be).

Ahem. Our favourite song was probably Let It Fade.

Starset

Starset was a different band entirely, and sadly that didn’t go down great with the fans. An orchestral rock band (the genre on their Facebook page), Starset took about ten minutes setting up this touch screen/DJ thing (sorry, don’t know what exactly it was), which obviously didn’t go down well. They then performed in blue helmets and black spacesuits, which was a lot different from the good old rock/metal band we’d just seen. So sadly, the majority didn’t warm to them, and they left a few songs later in underwhelming fashion.

Now, this isn’t me hating on them. Actually I really liked Starset. At the time I thought Emergent had the more exciting performance, but I would be more likely to listen to Starset, a theory which was indeed proved after the gig (more on that shortly). I liked the concept, and the vocalist had a really good range. The songs were good, and I enjoyed it. My favourite was definitely My Demons. Even now I can’t get enough of it.

Why didn’t it work last night? Well, they didn’t really interact with the crowd (having all the equipment between us and them didn’t help), and the songs were slower, which after the previous upbeat act, wasn’t appealing to the people. The crowd wanted to jam, they wanted Trivium, and some heavy metal…thus Starset was greeted mostly with indifference. Not being local didn’t help either; there were no fans to kick-start the crowd, so nobody really knew what was going on. The poor reception was a shame because they had a pretty good performance. Had they opened the gig, and not followed the lively Emergent, they might have fared better. I don’t know. But I couldn’t dwell on it too much at the point…Trivium was up next!

Trivium

No offence to the other bands, but Trivium was on a different level. They were amazing, full stop. Singing, interactions with the crowd, guitars, drums…all of it was fantastic. I won’t go into it more because I’d be here all day, but yeah, it was very, very, very good. They played a few songs from each album, and each song was as good as the next, even the ones I wouldn’t put in my favourites. Just. Awesome. Trivium loved it (they’ve said in the past, and again that night, about how good the fans here are…not bad considering there was only a couple hundred there. And this isn’t just general platitudes either; this show wasn’t even planned in the original tour, but they had to come back), the fans loved it and I loved it too.

How much? Well I sang until my throat was hoarse, I jumped, I head-banged and I just rocked out. Loved every minute of it. Could have kept going on all night.

Merchandise Time!

Sadly it did end sometime after midnight, so Vanna and I headed downstairs to get some merchandise. Our initial plan was just to get a Trivium t-shirt each, but then I saw the Starset t-shirts, and wow, they were probably the coolest t-shirts I’ve ever seen in my life (even cooler than the Anchorman one I’ve got)…so I had to have one. And to make things even better, the band was there to sign stuff! As their live CD was reasonably priced, we bought it and got that signed by everyone but the drummer. Was pretty impressed at that.

Sadly, my only regret from the night happened at this moment. I really, really, really wanted to talk to Starset (more than Trivium in some ways), to say something good and you know, just converse, but of course, I was too shy and star-struck (ridiculous, right?) to say anything. I managed ‘I really enjoyed the performance, thank you’ but that was it. I shook their hand too, but man, I wanted to ask all about them and where they came up with their concept. Maybe next time Starset, maybe next time.

But wait! A chance of redemption! Emergent is over there! Let’s get their CD, get that signed too! Vanna and I went over and we had an actual conversation! Well…sort of. The guitarist talked, while we, being the socially awkward people that we are, nodded and smiled. Damn. But again, I got out some lame platitude and a handshake, so I didn’t completely fail. I tried.

So, with our hands full of goodies (I’ll upload pictures of the t-shirts tomorrow), we headed home. On the car journey we listened to Emergent’s CD and Starset’s CD. As I referred to before, I don’t think Emergent is really my kind of band but Vanna enjoyed them so no regrets there. Starset was definitely more to my taste, but sadly they have only released three, albeit very good, songs. Hopefully there will be more out soon…ideally a full album. I’ll buy it for sure, so get on it guys. I’m waiting.

Final Impressions

So that was that. Would I go to a live gig again? Definitely. Without hesitation. I loved it.

Alex

Trivium!

Last night was amazing! I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy live music (I don’t like jumping around and I like sitting…) but I’m very happy that Vanna got the tickets. We didn’t get back to Vanna’s grandparents until 1am, and I’ve only just woke up now (12pm) with my ears still ringing. Hmm. Hopefully that’ll end soon otherwise I’ll be shouting at everyone all day. Still…it was worth it.

Anyway, that’s about it for now. I’ll blog about the full experience when I’m home tomorrow (it was an eventful night; I even shook hands with the other performing bands!)…at the moment my priorities are eating (hungrrryyyyy) and watching the football (come on Chelsea!). Obviously.

Speak to you later,

Alex

P.S Here’s a picture (technically two, but it is the same image) of me (and Vanna) at the gig. Just in case you needed proof!

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Bad Timing

Sorry about the blog quietness folks. I’m aware that I’ve only just returned from my hiatus (I like using that word, makes it sound important when really it, well, wasn’t) but I’m coming into my final few weeks in Minnesota (2 weeks, 5 days… 😦 ) and my focus, understandably, is on making the most of my time with Vanna before we have to separate once more (hopefully for the last time). Having said that, I will continue to blog as much as possible. There are past events that I will talk about eventually (like all those things I mention yet never get round to…I haven’t forgotten!), plus we have some exciting plans coming up:

Trivium:

On April 1st, we will be heading down to Minneapolis to see Trivium (our favourite metal band) perform. Vanna has seen them twice already, while it will be my first live gig, not just Trivium, but bands/artists in general. I’ve never been interested in going to a live performance (I bought a ticket once, but that was as far as I got with it), so this is a completely new experience for me. No idea what to expect, but I’ll looking forward to it.

London:

A week after I get back to the UK, I’m heading down to London for a medical examination; the next step in my application to get into the US permanently. Not excited about being examined, obviously, but the sooner we get it sorted, the sooner I can come back here (providing everything else goes through, of course) without fear of a deadline.  I can’t say I’ll enjoy it, but again, it’s a new experience for me. I’ve bought my train tickets, and to save money I plan to walk from the station to the surgery (a 40 minute walk according to google). I’ll bring my camera, and hopefully it’ll be a nice day. Gotta make the most of it, right?

And that’s about it, really. There might be other things going on (Anchorman 2 comes out on DVD in April…I will be first in the queue for that), but I’ll let you know in due course.

Thanks for reading,

Alex

This Weather Is Snow Joke (Yeah I know, Bad Pun…I’m Tired, All Right?)

We’re home! Got back at midnight and went straight to bed. Well, after we’d brought everything from the car (and there was a lot of it) into the house, of course. The car was only fifty yards (if that) from the door but that was far enough for me. No wind thankfully, but it was still darn cold and very snowy. I was glad I had my winter coat, trapper hat and snow boots (more on that shortly) on, otherwise it would have been even worse. Urgh. Spending these winter months in Minnesota is definitely going to be a new experience for me. But I’m excited to do it nonetheless.

Anyway, the journey from Durham, England (my house) to Breezy Point, Minnesota (my new house). It was…all right. Gather round, children, and I’ll tell you all about it (well, not all…it wasn’t that exciting. I’ll summarize).

Durham to Newcastle Airport:

Um, the car journey was straightforward. Not long after 3am so the roads were quiet. Got there okay…so yeah.

Newcastle to Amsterdam:

After we’d checked in our luggage (both got heavy tags but no extra fees; we were just under the limit), Vanna and I got our tickets and headed to departure. The plane was packed full but as we’d checked in early we were able to pick seats together. I had the window seat so I got some nice views of England at night. Once that novelty wore out, I listened to music and read Hemlock Grove (the book that the Netflix show is based on; Vanna bought it for me from Waterstones last week) while Vanna tried to nap. It was a short, uneventful journey. Easy.

Amsterdam to Minneapolis:

Urgh. Long, long, long queue to get through Amsterdam’s security. We got through okay, only to then be carted into a lounge area that was nowhere near big enough to fit all the passengers in. Vanna and I sat on the hard floor but hey, no big deal, we’d only be there for thirty minutes tops. Oh wait, make that an hour; the flight crew are stuck in traffic. Awesome.

*sigh*

Finally we got on and took our seats together (a nice European fellow traded with Vanna). The plane had fancy new touch screen televisions in the headrest, which was pretty cool. Sadly I didn’t really get to use it much as I was too exhausted to watch anything. I tried watching Two Guns, but I kept dozing off. Not that I got any good sleep; the discomfort in my stomach (I just felt sick all the time) and in my legs meant I’d wake up after a few minutes, more tired than before. This stop start sleeping method continued on for the next eight hours, with the only interruptions being when I ate or went to the bathroom. Not much fun. I did set a new high score on the Trivia game though, so that was something. Otherwise I was just happy to land and get off the plane. Thankfully that didn’t take long!

Oh wait, there was a crane in the runway, so we had to wait to be towed in. A process made even longer because people kept standing up, stopping the plane from finishing its taxiing. Argh.

At last though we got off…and then joined an incredibly long queue to get through Customs. I got to my desk before Vanna got to hers, which was surprising, but the biggest surprise was what happened next…

I Got Through Straight Away!

The guy asked me a handful of questions, and seemed unimpressed by my answers. I then played my ‘here’s the paperwork to show we’re doing it legally’ card, and that must have swayed him because he stamped my card and sent me through! The first time ever I’ve managed to get through customs without a long wait in the interview area! Wooo! I waited for Vanna and then we were away! Woo!

But that’s not all. A TSA officer reads my blog! He followed us out (well, I think he did…I turned around and he was there) and started talking about how we’d have to be careful about doing 90 trips in case a flight is delayed by a day. At this point I assumed he had been Vanna’s agent, especially when he continued to say that hopefully this would be the last time we’d do it if our paperwork went through, and then congratulated us on our engagement. Vanna must have been telling him our story at the desk! But hold on, Vanna had a woman…what’s going on? Only his last remark put the pieces together. I can’t remember the words exactly, but he complimented my blog! A follower! Alas, he walked off before either Vanna or I could react. But hey, that’s pretty cool, right? I’m famous…sort of! If you’re reading this, Mr TSA office, hello! And thank you for the advice!

Naturally I was rather happy at this. Maybe not smug…but not far off.

Minneapolis to Breezy Point:

As I mentioned yesterday, our first port of call was to Vanna’s grandparents in St Paul. We had a nice catch up, and I received a very thoughtful Winter Survival Box. Not only did it include long underwear, gloves (proper winter ones) and thick socks, I also got a big, warm pair of winter boots! To say I was happy to have them when I discovered I would have to wade through a foot of snow was an understatement, so thank you Lynn, Steve and Ben for those! Much appreciated!

And that brings us back to the present. We don’t really have any plans for today, except for unpacking our suitcases, putting our clothes away etc. Oh, and getting the Xbox set up. Obviously. I would take pictures of the weather for my readers back home (or in any place where heavy snow is only seen in films) but my camera and batteries have yet to be reunited. I’ll do that sometime tomorrow. As for now, I should probably go help Vanna before she yells at me.

Speak to you all later,

Alex