Ah, what a gift it is to return to the remarkable Venice after a visit somewhere else. We always say, "Thank Goodness we're coming back to Venice", after a trip somewhere cool ... like Jamaica ... or Hawai'i ... or The Virgin Islands ... or Minnesota, because if it wasn't Venice you came back to, you might be bummed to be back. Instead, you just appreciate it more.
The same goes for my home state of Minnesota. I just got back and it was so great, it was like the Chamber of Commerce put on a special show - starring people AND place - to lure me back. From my very first awakening after a quick nap post red-eye, it was magic.
I always make my pilgrimage to Wood Lake Nature Center, a few blocks from the house I grew up in. The main freeway (35W) is literally right next to this blessing of a place, but you would never know it. It is a pristine refuge of wildlife and peace, smack in the center of the city. I said out loud to my Mom and Brother, "We're going to see deer" ... and - three minutes later - two twin fawns stepped into the dappled sunlight of the woods.
(*Note: my photos are just for visual aid. Just WAIT until you see what my brother, Paul, got up to with his camera! They'll make mine look like I took them with a Fisher-Price camera.)
I went and checked out the gorgeous (and roasting hot in the bright sunshine OUTDOORS) new Twins Stadium, Target Field, where everyone was in a good mood, all Minnesota Nice.
I went to the best music club in America, (Happy 40th Birthday!) First Avenue (The Purple Rain club for the uninformed), where I spent countless hours and had transcendent rock show moments that give me chills to this day. They have a new diner attached, and I swear that when I walked into the open garage door of The Depot, Kris Kristofferson was playing. First Ave had just re-painted the stars on the outside of the building, naming just some of the classic bands that have graced the stage ... I was happy to see some of my favorites right next to the front door.
I ran through a sprinkler in the middle of the city to cool off from the sweltering heat, that just a few short months ago was only dreamed of, as everything was covered with feet of snow. Seeking relief from almost-sure heat stroke, I found another sprinkler in the Walker Sculpture Garden.
When I was completely wet, I went and sat under the shade of a new sculpture made up of tree after tree filled with chimes, and let the variety of tones and cool umbrella of the leaves lull me into a lush, reverential trance.
I surprise partied my dear, sweet, beloved Mother (the whole point of the trip) for her 70th (crazy and unbelievable!) birthday, and saw the love shining out of everyone's eyes for a lady with a life well (and selflessly) lived, filling my heart to almost bursting.
I spent time with friends that I love as much as I do myself, and played with their kids that I now feel the same about.
I caroused with friends from birth, kindergarten, high school (a rare bunch that still all show up and WANT to hang out together, from every walk of clique), college, and beyond. We laughed and told stories, old and new, until a thunder and lightning extravaganza blew us outside to run around in it.
Speaking of extravaganza, I saw the best fireworks - I believe ever - in front of a gigantically full Moon as I floated on the St. Croix with friends for life, as a Led Zeppelin cover band played on the shore, and actually sounded great. Afterward, we cruised down the river in the path of that moonlight, smelling the fresh, clean mud and green, as stars shot about like the earlier pyrotechnics. I'll never forget the serenity of that moonlight drive (so serene that I didn't even take pictures).
I walked around my favorite city lake, Lake of The Isles, and loved every leaf, blade of grass, puffy cloud, and yeah, even the lake scum the good people canoed through. I licked an ice cream cone (Bailey's Raspberry Truffle. I'm not kidding. mmMM!) from Sebastian Joe's at a table outside, remembering Liquor Lyle's tomfoolery. I loved the wit and sense of fun of my hometown, as I beheld the Sea Monster of Lake Harriet.
After a bit of an accidental trip extension, I was ready to return to Venice. Total exhaustion from no sleep at all, and multiple city stopovers, were no match for the excellence of Venice, California. I was met by fun friends pouring champagne, some catching up to the hometown people in years of friendship themselves. My first morning back on the beach this morning, I was greeted by dolphins leaping all the way out of the water to say what's up. I waved at all my pals at the Farmer's Market, and got my favorite mocha in town at The French Market. Which reminded me of the Garrison Keillor article I read as I sat outside in Minnesota, thinking somewhat along the same lines, and almost completely explaining humanity:
Some people believe that God has revealed Himself to us and not to the others, the barbarians, and it is His Will that our tribe vanquish the others and rain death and destruction on them. Others believe that our understanding of God is incomplete but that He has bestowed this beautiful world on us, and other gifts, which should be shared, and we should walk softly and praise His Name. I walk softly to the cafe and order a large mocha and pray for the forgiveness of incompetence and for mercy to children. And thanks for the day, which happens to be perfect.
Ponds, Lakes, and Rivers ... lead to Oceans, with all their vastness and possibilities. Which is the same as what happened to me. I love my beginnings dearly, and they are what pushed me on to bigger places and adventures. I love them all the same, with all their differences, as I do all the people who reside next to them. I am all of them. And Perfect Days happen everywhere.
*Thank you to Minnesota, for welcoming me home so spectacularly every single time. And Thank you to Venice, for doing the same exact thing.