Drive, She Says

Cathy Wurzer hits the road

For the past four years, Minnesota Public Radio’s Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer has used her off-air time to explore Minnesota’s iconic Highway 61. She shares her adventures in her new book, Tales of the Road: Highway 61. Learn about her favorite fall road trip below.

On The Road

with Cathy Wurzer

For her new book, Tales of the Road: Highway 61, Minnesota Public Radio’s Cathy Wurzer left the studio and got behind the wheel of her 2002 Subaru sedan to explore the state’s most famous road. “I love to drive and I love to stop and look,” says the Morning Edition host. Planning a fall trip of your own? Wurzer recommends heading south, to Bluff Country. Here’s where she’d stop along the way:

» Le Duc Mansion, Hastings
“Built by entrepreneur William Gates Le Duc. Look for the big wrought-iron fence right on Highway 61. After William died, his daughters owned the house. It has since been restored and you can take tours.”

» Oakwood Cemetery, Red Wing
“There are some wonderful old grave markers that were made at the nearby Red Wing Pottery factory. It’s very peaceful.”

» The Oaks, Minnesota City
“It’s not very attractive, but it’s got a great history. The warehouse was once one of the most famous restaurants between here and Chicago. Gangsters in the 1930s were known to frequent the place.”

—Sara Glassman

Keeping Track

Bridging the Gap

It took less than 14 months to replace the I-35W bridge. Here, some numbers on the engineer feat:

48,700 Cubic yards of concrete used to construct the bridge
650 Workers on site during the peak of construction
141,000 Cars, on average, that used the old bridge each day
100 Years the new bridge is designed to last
50 Years the old bridge was designed to last
40 Years the old bridge did last
4 Lanes in each direction on the old bridge
5 Traffic lanes in each direction on the new bridge
$2,000,000 Bonus earned by general contractor Flatiron Partners for every 10 days the bridge is completed in advance of the deadline
$20,000,000 Maximum possible bonus Flatiron Partners can earn

—Sara Glassman

The Minnesobama Effect

Why a local congressional race has become one of the most closely watched contests in the country

By Tim Gihring

“People in politics, as in life, just don’t throw money around frivolously,” says Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier. Translation: A lot of folks must have their Uncle Sams in a bunch about the race to replace retiring U.S. Representative Jim Ramstad in Minnesota’s third congressional district, which includes Minneapolis’s affluent western suburbs. A who’s who of local and national power brokers have thrown enough money into the race—including nearly $700,000 in just seven weeks this summer—to make it one of the most expensive in the nation.

Much of the green has gone red, backing Republican Erik Paulsen, Eden Prairie’s rep in the Minnesota House since 1995. Along with usual suspects Rudy Boschwitz and the Hubbard broadcasting clan, Paulsen has drawn the elephantine support of Life Time Fitness founder Bahram Akradi and the late investor Eugene Sit.

But Paulsen’s Democratic opponent, Ashwin Madia, has also raised big money, thanks in part to the district’s increasingly purple politics. Though they haven’t sent a Democrat to Congress since 1961, Edina, Wayzata, and Brooklyn Park have trended more Democratic in recent elections. It doesn’t hurt that Madia—30 years old, with zero political experience—has drawn comparisons to Barack Obama for his intriguing background: The son of poor Indian immigrants, he became an attorney before enlisting in the Marines, where he worked on instituting a legal system in Iraq. He’s also a self-described fiscally conservative, socially moderate former Republican. A one-time McCain backer, he has won over such well-heeled former Ramstad backers as Chris and Robert Pohlad.

Like Obama, Madia personifies change, says Schier. Yet it remains to be seen whether Madia, like Obama, can convince the public to choose the unfamiliar. “They’ll examine the goods,” says Schier, “but will they buy?”

The North Star Stat

Attention shoppers: The Mall of America is no longer in the top 10 largest malls in the world. In terms of leasable retail space, the 2.5 million square feet (entertainment spots such as Nickelodeon Universe and Underwater Adventures don’t count) place it at a paltry 18th in the world. Who’s No. 1? The South China Mall in Dongguan, China (natch), tops the list with 6.5 million square feet.

The Night of the Gun: The Locals’ Guide

The Night of the Gun, the bestselling memoir by former Twin Cities Reader editor and current New York Times columnist David Carr, is stocked with well-known locals from the worlds of journalism and politics. Here, a guide to some of the players.

Night of the Gun
David B., a friend who helps Carr write his first stories and teaches him “a lot, including that a lot was two words.”
AKA: David Brauer, media reporter,

Brian, an editor at the now-defunct Twin Cities Reader who assigns Carr to write his first professional story.
AKA: Brian Lambert, senior editor, Mpls.St.Paul.

Brett, who Carr hires to write about music for the Reader, and who Carr later makes into a restaurant critic because “he always seemed to be sweating people for their food at lunchtime.”
AKA: Brett Anderson, son of former guv Wendell, now a James Beard Award–winning food writer for the New Orleans Times Picayune.

Burl, a “laconic and funny writer” who Carr hires to work at the Reader.
AKA: Burl Gilyard, a laconic and funny writer for Finance and Commerce.

Sarah, a Republican operative with whom Carr once waited tables; in 1993, she indroduces Carr to the woman who will become his wife.
AKA: Sarah Janecek, Republican talking head; publisher of Politics in Minnesota.

R.T., who becomes publisher of the Twin Cities Reader while Carr is editor. While both are at the paper, R.T. is forced to tell Carr that his tendency to “pop off”—e.g. Carr once tells a coworker that she has a “nice rack”—makes some women in the office uncomfortable.
AKA: R.T. Rybak, the mayor of Minneapolis.

Claude, whom Carr hires to be an editor at the Reader; later recalls Carr telling interns: “If you don’t get this done by tomorrow, I’m going to have my foot so far up your ass you’re going to be on the fifth floor.”
AKA: Claude Peck, senior editor, Star Tribune.

Photo by

Dave Kuck

Reality check

On The Market

The location: Minnetonka
The house: A four-bedroom, four-bath, 3,836-square-foot single-family home built in 1977, located within the Wayzata School District.
Last sold: 1983, for $130,500
Current asking price: $499,900
Initial asking price: $525,000
Days on the market: 80+
Agent: Dave Kuck, EXIT
Lakes Realty
Why it’s still on the market: With more than 60 showings and several offers, there has been substantial interest in this home. Still, offers have been 20 to 25 percent below the listing price and the owners aren’t in a rush to sell. “Buyers are scared to pay too much. It doesn’t mean that they don’t think the property isn’t worth it,” says Kuck.

Ladies Night

Top actresses take on the Bard

“We thought you guys were good, but we missed the women,” was the word Michelle Hensley received after her Ten Thousand Things Theater staged an all-male Richard III last year. Granted, this response was from prison inmates, for whom TTT Theater frequently performs. But Hensley’s actress friends also felt left out, she says. So from October 2 to November 2 at Open Book in Minneapolis, she’s producing an all-female Twelfth Night, featuring a convocation of top actresses, including Sally Wingert, Sonja Parks, Kimberly Richardson, Isabell Monk O’Connor, and Maggie Chestovich—making the play’s gender confusion almost make sense. —Tim Gihring

The Up-and-Comers

Five troupes raising the curtain on the next generation of Twin Cities theater


Walking Shadow Theatre Company

Known for: Polished productions of incisive modern works, from Albert Camus to Neil Labute—and occasional zombie comedies.
Buzz: Their Shakespeare: Land of the Dead was this year’s best-selling Minnesota Fringe Festival show.
Upcoming show: Amazons and their Men, October 17 to November 1 at Pillsbury House Theatre, derived from the life of Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl.

Off-Leash Area
Known for: Performance art that spins poetry out of politics, alienation, and dark comedy.
Buzz: After two Ivey Awards and a City Pages “Artists of the Year” distinction, the troupe is tackling bigger subjects, from war to social responsibility.
Upcoming show: The Jury, at the Off-Leash Area Garage, from October 3 to 12.

Live Action Set
Known for: Dance-theater pushing physical and emotional boundaries, directed by top local experimentalists, such as Theatre de la Jeune Lune cofounder Bob Rosen.
Buzz: City Pages’ “Artists of the Year” in 2005, they’ve since solidified their status as the local avant-garde of physical theater.
Upcoming show: The Happy Show: The Happiest Show Ever, time and place TBA.

Four Humors Theater
Known for: Comic takes on classic literature, from Oedipus Rex as a British drawing-room mystery to Christopher Marlowe as a spy.
Buzz: Their latest, Mortem Capiendum, was the Producer’s Pick at the Cincinnati Fringe and one of the top-grossing shows at the Minnesota Fringe.
Upcoming show: Slated for December, details TBA.

Sandbox Theatre
Known for: Stunningly designed productions that illuminate such broad topics as greed, gay relationships, and Zelda Fitzgerald.
Buzz: The troupe’s visual sensibility has attracted top fashion designers Anna Lee, Kerry Riley, and Laura Fulk to create costumes for their new show.
Upcoming show: The Horse, the Bird, the Monkey & the Dancer, November 7 to 22, Red Eye Theater, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s Masque of the Red Death.

The Curtain

Who’s up, who’s down in local arts and culture


Buffalo Gal Productions
After directing the second-most sold-out Fringe show this summer, BGP head Perrin Post brings her previous hit, Broadway’s Legendary Ladies, to the Ordway this month.
Northrop Auditorium
A new director and renovation aim to revive the U’s cultural barn.
Minnesota Fringe Festival
The Fringe bounced back with an 8 percent jump in tickets sold, though it’s still below its 2005 peak.
MN Museum of American Art
Its director resigned, spurring questions of whether this spunky gem can stay afloat in St. Paul.
Photography fans
The closure of the Minnesota Center for Photography leaves camera buffs in the dark.