I am a proud native of this fine state, but when the folks who run Minnesota Monthly offered me this gig, I was living and working in Philadelphia. As a city, Philly lacks a lot of important things—honest and transparent local government, a functional mass transit system, a single better-than-average Thai restaurant—but it does have a deep and abiding sense of its own toughness. This is not without reason. Philly is a town where civic leaders once firebombed a group of their own citizens; a city that once made a thug named Frank Rizzo its mayor (a mayor who once arrived at a black-tie event with a nightstick tucked in his cummerbund); a place where professional football fans once threw snowballs at, yes, Santa Claus.
So when I told friends and colleagues that I was moving home to work at this magazine, I prepared myself for a typically Philly response: a little mockery, a lot of ignorance, maybe a snowball or two in the face. But that’s not what happened. To be sure, I spent a lot of time trying to dispel certain Garrison Keillor/Coen Brothers—based stereotypes (thanks, guys), and I encountered a hefty dose of geographic ignorance. Upon learning that I was moving to Minneapolis, one acquaintance replied, “That is so cool. I love Canadians.”
But I also heard an unexpected amount of, well, envy: about the cost of living, about the lakes and parks and green space, about the level of public civility and cultural sophistication, from music to theater to design to architecture. It was a conspicuous reminder that Minnesota, for good or bad, has its own distinct cultural identity, one that means something, even to people who don’t live here.
As a regional magazine, one of Minnesota Monthly’s primary missions is to explore, explain, and sometimes challenge that identity, what it means to be a Minnesotan. It’s something I think we’ve done pretty well in this issue. First, there’s our cover feature, which offers practical advice on how to get off the couch and get outside this summer. If finding new ways to enjoy every moment of the state’s most fleeting season isn’t required information for living here, after all, pretty much nothing is.
Then there’s the feature by senior writer Tim Gihring, “Everything You Know About Minnesota is Wrong,” which should also be considered required reading for every Minnesotan, albeit for very different reasons. Gihring, who during his tenure has written some of Minnesota Monthly’s most memorable stories, fearlessly upends many of the state’s most durable fables—from Democratic dominance of state politics to the origins of our rodent-inspired nickname—about who we are and where we come from.
With any luck, these are the kind of stories you will come to expect—and the kind of questions you will expect us to ask—in the pages of Minnesota Monthly. They are the stories that will help identify all the stuff that speaks to this place’s deep and abiding sense of itself. And while the expressions of that distinctiveness may not involve firebombing citizens or hurling projectiles at a holiday icon, it is probably a safe bet that they will involve snowballs.