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America’s coasts are home to its most extreme characters. The common perception is that the East Coast is dirty, crowded and populated with rude, violent psychopaths, while the West Coast is all sunny beachfront property peopled with drug-addled hippies and actors. While this is all true, it’s hardly an accurate portrayal of the lifestyle of the remainder of the American population. Let’s take a look at a typical Midwestern state to get an idea of what life is like in the heartland.

The word “Minnesota” is derived from the Native American word Minnehota, which means “land of ten thousand shopping malls.” Ironically, white settlers made room for those malls by herding the state’s Native American populace into tiny patches of land called “reservations.” Today those reservations are home to lucrative casinos, where gambling addicts from all over the Midwest come to blow their childrens’ college money.

LEFT: The Minnesota state flag. Each U.S. State has its own flag,
filled with cryptic symbolism and non-English text. RIGHT: Minnesota’s
population is centered around the “Twin Cities” of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The remainder of the state is mostly uninhabitable wasteland.

Perhaps the most popular Minnesota attraction is the Mall of America. The Mall is like a city within a city — services include a wedding chapel, an infirmary, a business school and a bankruptcy court (not to mention the famous indoor rollercoaster, which features two loops and a stopover at The Sharper Image). Spending a day at the Mall of America is like spending a year locked inside of a smaller mall.

The Mall of America features many unique stores and restaurants (Abercrombie and Fitch, Lady Foot Locker, Orange Julius, The Great American Cookie Co., Nordstrom Rack, and Sam Goody, to name a few). To find a similar shopping experience, you would have to drive several miles to another mall. The whole family is welcome at the Mall, but if you are under 16, don’t forget to come accompanied by an adult’s credit card.

Many vendors sell walleye fish broiled in butter and served on a stick. A tasty treat! But Minnesotans don’t stop there in their quest to devour stick-mounted foodstuffs. There’s also a variation on the popular “hot dog” which is dipped in cornmeal batter, deep-fried and served on a stick. And on a hot day kids enjoy ice “cream” pressed into the shape of Pikachu’s head, dipped in chocolate and mounted on a stick. At fairs and carnivals, air-puffed colored sugar (“cotton candy”) on a stick is both popular and inedible.

A popular food-related Minnesota attraction is the Pillsbury Factory tour, where you can watch as greasy dough is squirted into cardboard tubes, which are then sold as ready-to-heat rolls, muffins, and other bread-like items. Visitors to the central offices of Pillsbury are always asking to meet the company’s lovable “Doughboy.” Unfortunately, security guard Tom O’Brien succumbed to complications from his obesity last year.

Minnesota is also home to a lively music scene. Formerly popular rock combos like Soul Asylum, Hüsker Dü and the Replacements hail from Minneapolis. Minnesotan Bob Dylan gained fame by changing his name and leaving town. One of the most famous Minnesotan musicians still owns (lavender) property here. Paisley Park, Prince’s famous recording studio, has undergone as many name changes as its owner. Names The Artist toyed with include “Fuchsia Grove,” “Where I Keep Apollonia” and “The Building Formerly Known As General Mills Processing and Refinement Plant #4.”

No study of Minnesota would be complete without a mention of its most famous elected official, a colorful raconteur whose checkered past includes the wearing of women's clothing! Yes, of course we're talking about Minnesota State Auditor Judith H. Dutcher.

More of the Foreigner's Guide:
[ Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 ]

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One Nation, Extra Cheese

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