We left Cleveland for Minneapolis at 11 a.m. on a Friday morning with no place to stay that night. My band Bad Teenage Moustache's gig in Madison, Wisconsin Friday at True Coffee had been cancelled due to construction, so the band, Gary Nicole and I, decided to drive towards Minnesota and find a cheap hotel in a cheap town an hour or two outside of Minneapolis so as to catch Saturday's 1 p.m. game at Target Field. After two games and a gig in Cleveland, we were happy for the night off.
We ended up stopping in Menominee, Wisconsin at a $75 Motel 6. We pulled up, and a monthly tenant of the motel was enjoying some cheap beer with his friends at a picnic table in back. He approached the moment he saw us pulling a guitar out of the car. He drunkenly asked if we were a band through rotting teeth. I said yes and told him our name, "Bad Teenage Moustache." He then proceeded to ask the same question as to the name of our band six more times as we loaded all our music gear onto our backs. We knew this was not the place to leave a single instrument or microphone in the car for fear of robbery by forgetful Frank here. Though not able to remember anything just told to him, he helpfully warned us not to smoke weed in the motel because they call the cops. I imagined Forgetful Frank found this out the hard way, judging by his lack of short term memory.
We grabbed a quick bar snack and a beer at the only place open after 10 p.m., certain Forgetful Frank was robbing our motel room as we ate. We manically sang "Mahna Mahna", replacing the lyrics with "Menominee" for a few hours straight. Our travel weariness caused us to find it all funnier than it probably was.
We woke up early, packed up the car again, and headed off to Minneapolis. Or rather, the La Quinta Inn near the airport in Bloomington. We lucked out that our room was ready at 10:30 a.m. and quickly checked in, only to turn around and leave again on the hotel shuttle to the airport, where you can catch a train that brings you directly to Target Field. The whole trip from the airport, or Mall of America (which provides free parking and also has a stop), takes under an hour. It's well worth the extra travel time to pay one-third the price for a hotel in Bloomington than the $250 they want for a stay downtown. I booked this hotel early, knowing that Minneapolis's drive-ability from Chicago, and the fact that it was Father's Day weekend, would increase demand for this particular Cubs road trip. If you're heading to Target Field, I highly suggest staying in Bloomington. You'll save a lot of money!
The Metro Blue Line was packed with Cubs fans, but Minneapolis was prepared, running extra trains to accommodate the nearly 40,000 fans that were about to pack the place. Our train arrived a half hour before game time, and being short a ticket, I immediately located a scalper who was easily talked down from $40 to $30 which was cheaper than a single seat on Stubhub. Personally, I find if you just need 1 ticket, a scalper is usually the way to go. Ticket resale sites charge a premium, and Craigslist sellers rarely want to break up pairs. Legality of scalping notwithstanding.
The first thing I noticed about Target Field was the incredibly long security line to get into the park. Most ballparks have implemented the use of metal detectors, bag searches, frisking, and wanding, but these Minnesotan security guards were particularly thorough. Opening every zipper, forcing me to empty my pockets, questioning a wand beep on a pocket which had a pack of gum in it, lifting my hat to prove I wasn't carrying a knife in my mohawk. MLB now gives you a more thorough search to get into a ball game than the TSA gave you getting on an airplane 15 years ago. And the lines to get into some ballparks are akin to those you can normally find at O'Hare. Yet, there are other ballparks like Wrigley in Chicago for example, where a cursory bag search is all the security you encounter. Even Citi Field in NYC gives you a disinterested wanding and sends you through. I'll save my overall opinion in this for a future written rant, but at the very least, the "security theatre" as many people call it, is not meted out equally across the league. And at Target Field, I saw a 5-year-old boy being frisked with his hands up while I waited for my turn, sweating in the muggy sun.
The band was starving after a morning of shuttles, trains and automobiles, so our first stop past the gates was at a kiosk which listed all of the concessions available at Target. We agreed upon Tony Oliva's Cuban Sandwich and located one of sandwich stands. The Cuban is melted swiss cheese, roasted pork, ham, and pickled on a panini pressed bread and it comes with a bag of chips for $11. It's the best sandwich I've eaten at a ballpark this year! It's also quite honestly the best Cuban I may have ever eaten n my life. Tony Oliva was not only a great Cuban ballplayer, but he makes a great Cuban! Besides, how could I not eat a sandwich with the word Cub in it!
I grabbed a Two Gingers Whiskey and ginger ale and met up with a buddy I was meeting behind home plate in the first row of the upper deck where our seats were. We had an excellent, but slightly obstructed view of everything through the wire slats in the fence, one of which was broken. This is an issue at many newer ballparks. Front row seats often force you to peer over or through a fence or glass partition in order to comfortably watch the game. Even at Wrigley, the first row or three of Terrace Reserved is a recipe for people walking in front of you the entire time. You're always better off a little higher up. Yet, our seats were still a wonderful perch to watch Target's Kiss Cam and Mascot races.
In my twisted world, the Twins mascot should be the creepy twins from The Shining, but they've chosen to go with T.C. the Bear. And racing mascots; Wanda the Walleye, Louis the Loon, Skeeta the Mosquito, Babe the Blue Ox, and of course Bullseye the Target Dog. In Saturday's race, the Target dog won the race, which made me wonder if he always won. It would stand to reason corporate would call down and tell the mascot handlers to cast someone fast as Bullseye. I suppose, if they let Skeeter win now and again, Target would sell a lot more bug spray seasonally as I hear mosquitos are the state bird of Minnesota. Babe the Blue Ox is Paul Bunyan's Ox, who is French Canadian, so I'm not sure how he fits in. And Wanda the Walleye is available fried at the State Fair concession stands. I had Wanda on Sunday. She was quite greasy, but I still enjoyed her flavor and ample portion size. Wanda is served with fries for $12. Nicole had the "Pork Chop on a Stick" from the State Fair concessions. It is exactly what you'd imagine it to be, a pork chop on a stick.
The game ended with a 4-1 Cubs win and we headed over to a highly recommended restaurant Butcher and the Boar. Their meaty menu showcases sausages, pates, and lobster grilled cheese. My ankle swelled with gout just reading all the rich ingredients. We ate and drank like royalty and were even sent out house specialty bourbon shots by the manager. I limped away from the meal satisfied and ready for more fun.
We had lucked out getting a table, as the main restaurant is usually full of reservations. We met some Cubs fans locking up their bikes in front who were facing at least an hour wait. We told them they could hit the beer garden in the back with no reservation needed. They reciprocated the suggestion and told us to go to Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge, where they had just come from, and enjoyed Tiki Bar drinks on a patio overlooking the Mississippi river. We hopped a $7 Uber to Psycho Suzi's and after a 45 minute cocktail drinking wait, we watched the moon rise over the mighty Miss while I tied on a few Mai Tais.
When we were finally ready to leave, we checked back into Uber as we were in no state to hop the blue line to the hotel shuttle, but Uber was 3X surge pricing. Feeling stranded, and facing a $75 cab ride to the hotel in Bloomington, we searched for other options. All the cab companies we called were too busy to even answer the phone! Luckily, I have a Lyft account as well. They're the cars who used to have a mustache on their front bumpers. Lyft took us home for only $30. Technology and "supply and demand" to the rescue.
We slept it off at La Quinta, only to get up and do it again the next afternoon. Unfortunately, our seats were in the direct sun in the outfield, and being Father's Day, the place was jammed. Gary and I sweat out our hangover an inning longer than Nicole before retreating to the shade underneath the grandstand. Target Field was Standing Room Only, and the places any seat holder can usually stand and watch the game, were completely occupied with those who had purchased the privilege of standing behind the seats. We tried to move around the ballpark to seemingly vacant seats in the shade, but were usually kicked out after an inning by returning patrons smart enough to buy seats in the shade. We contemplated leaving after the Cubs went up 8-0, but the rout cleared out the Twins fans, and Gary and I enjoyed the ninth inning from Box Seats a few rows back from the field. The Cubs won as Nicole was busy getting kicked off of the premises of Target Field for smoking.
Apparently, not only can you not leave the ballpark to smoke, but you also can't smoke anywhere near the stadium. There are no signs informing you of this rule, but they kicked her out nonetheless. We finally located each other after walking all the way around the sprawling Target Center complex, past baseball themed Peanuts characters and statues of Twins greats like Harmon Killebrew and Kent Hrbek, who also has his own air-conditioned stadium bar where you can drink after they stop liquor service in the stands.
We took the train ride back to the airport and rested on a bench waiting for the La Quinta shuttle. Our exhaustion from being on the road playing music and watching baseball had caught up to our middle aged bodies. This was all a lot easier in my 20s. But we had a gig to play at Acadia back in town, we hopped the shuttle, grabbed our gear, and headed back downtown.
On the way down, I got a phone call from the owner that there would be no sound man, but the bartender would help set it up. We arrived and ordered our free touring band beer and food, and I uncoiled cables and set up the board for the opening band The Feng Shui Ninjas between bites of a delicious black bean burger. The Feng Shui Ninjas' unique multi-instrument setup required every working and non-working mic and cable the Acadia could provide. Even though I had only booked the Ninja's two days earlier, they awesomely brought a crowd. Bad Teenage Moustache brought two Cubs fans to the show, who had seen my incessant tweeting about the concert which Cubs announcer Len Kasper supportively retweeted. Thanks Len!
Unfortunately, my camera died right when we went on stage, so I can't share "The Ballad of John Baker", otherwise known as "The Night the Backup Catcher Got the Win" with you, but the gig went extremely well and we sold a bunch of CD's to the Feng Shui Ninja fans and made another $100, plus the free food and beer. The Acadia even unexpectedly paid us $30 at the end of the night in addition to feeding and inebriating us.
The last band of the night was a rock banjo trio called Scorch Van Buren who I really enjoyed. The dude can really pick a banjo and the songs are catchy. If you enjoy punky bluegrass...you'll dig Scorch Van Buren. I did.
The Acadia has a vast beer selection of drafts, bottles, and cans and the sound system and food is excellent. Their motto of "No Crap On Tap", certainly rings true and I will definitely visit again, probably for another show.
Minneapolis is a fun town. I lived in St. Paul for a summer while touring with the National Tour of RENT. I blew out my knee and had surgery by one of the Vikings' doctors, met John Davidson, and even sang the National Anthem at the old Metrodome and sat in a skybox. But the Metrodome was probably the worst place I've ever watched a baseball game. I went once in the Twins Championship year of 1987, and was appalled that fans didn't stand up for homeruns. And when the cast of RENT sang the anthem 10 years later, I left our skybox in the fifth inning out of sheer boredom. From the super bouncy super turf, to the folded up football seats in the outfield, the Metrodome was a modern marvel mess.
Everyone you talk to in Minnesota doesn't ask what you think of their five-year-old ballpark, they ask you "Don't you just love Target Field?" Confident that the response will be to gush over the Taj Mahal of the Twin Cities. But I just smile and say I'm having a great time, which is both polite and true, but also a bit loaded with what I really think. People in Minnesota are nice. They smile and wave with a "good morning" or a "howdy-do". They are nice, and their ballpark is nice. The food was good. The seats were comfortable (out of the sun). Even the security guards frisk you nicely. Target Field is a wonderful ballpark, but lacks character in its newness. But I will say, its a huge improvement over the Metrodome, and Minneapolis is a happening town. As I said, I wasn't lying about having a great time.
Well, Bad Teenage Moustache pulled it off. Four ballgames, three gigs, and approximately 1663 miles from Chicago to Columbus to Cleveland to Minneapolis and back home. When I finally returned to Wrigley for a Tuesday night game against the Dodgers, I nestled into a fence leaner in left field just in time to watch a dad holding a baby catch a foul ball. It was the most controversial play of the game, and I zoomed in for the shot of the guys wife taking the baby away. You don't need mascot races, kiss cams, or pork on a stick to entertain you at a ballgame. Just the game, the fans, and the old ballpark.
Cubs beat the Dodgers 1-0 on a walk off in the 10th inning as if to say, "Welcome Home Danny."