Friday, October 29, 2004

Wednesday in Bloomington blog.

Minnesota has a surprising amount of foliage color in late October. I was expecting only the last dangling dregs of the leaf world to be on the trees, with the bareness of winter clearly visible. Not so; a lot of species are still hanging on, and even along some of the Interstate routes, which seem remarkably uncluttered with manmade works, compared to what I’m used to on the roads around Chicago.

My company held a conference at a hotel along the Interstate in Bloomington, Minn., a town more famous for the Mall of America, which I’ve written about before, almost a year ago (see November 7 & 8, 2003). I had a lot to do. I moderated the main panel in the morning, introduced a couple of other speakers, and wrote a couple of articles about the conference for our on-line publications. If it hadn’t all made me tired, I could have marveled at seeing a panel discussion, carrying my computer to the hotel’s business center, writing up a description of the event based on my notes, plugging the computer into the wall, and wiring it to the head office in New York. By this morning, they saw to it that anyone in the world with a computer and a knowledge of written English was able to read what I’d written. Many more people will read it, in fact, than read anything here.

I had few free hours in Bloomington, but on Thursday night I was confined to the vicinity of my hotel when it came to finding dinner. Hotel restaurant? Nah, usually they’re overpriced and undertasty. Nearby was Burger King. No. Dairy Queen, which refused to display its name on the outside of the building, merely calling itself DQ. No.

Which left Friday’s, formerly known as T.G.I. Friday’s. One of the original fern bars. I don’t remember how long it has been since I’ve been to one, but it was probably in the early ’80s in Nashville. There was one on Elliston Ave. not far from campus, but it really wasn’t my idea of fine vittles. Instead I’d go to the Elliston Place Soda Shop, which had not changed since 1940 and made a terrific shake, or Mack’s, which served meat-and-threes at popular prices, though I remember one fellow student who derided it as the “Ptomaine Domain.”

The verdict on Friday’s in Minnesota in the mid-2000s? A shrug of the shoulders. I had chicken and shrimp with a side sauce that the chain calls “Jack Daniel’s,” though it isn’t clear from reading the menu whether there’s any of the whisky included. Not bad, and the mashed potatoes were excellent, but I know the secret to that – add a lot of butter. In the end, I got everything I needed from the restaurant: sustenance in a reasonably pleasant atmosphere.

Tomorrow (or Sunday): Adventures on Always Tardy Airways.


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