Many Happy Returns

It ain’t over when the fat man flies away


Percentage of people who used cash to pay for most of their holiday purchases. Also the percentage of people who will feel smugly superior when the rest of us open our credit- card statements this month.


Percentage of people who forget to include gift receipts with the presents they give.


Percentage of holiday gifts that are returned. (We’re pretty sure that number would be 51 percent higher if everyone had remembered to include a gift receipt.)


Amount of money you’ll save per month once you unplug the holiday lights you’ve strung on your roof and trees. Unfortunately, the savings is not enough to convince your neighbor to shut off his Santa-meets-Mary-meets-Kwanzaa display anytime before spring.


The amount that the average person received in gift cards. Can we apply that to our credit-card bill? No? How about our electric bill?


Hours in advance that eager Linden Hills shoppers line up to take advantage of the Bibelot Shops’ annual 50-percent-off post-holiday sale.


Average temperature, in Fahrenheit, during that 2.5-hour wait outside. Because half-off can apply not only to the earrings you buy, but to your actual ears.


Number of Minnesotans who will step down from their temporary jobs as mall Santas, gift-wrappers, and retail clerks once the holiday season is over. Also the approximate number of days it will take to rid their brains of Bing Crosby’s “Winter Wonderland.”

Freelance writer Erin Peterson never remembers to take a number at the return counter.

Things To Do Before…you step on the scale

1. He’s been called the most exasperated man in America. He’s also one of the funniest—assuming you like to laugh about the illogical, the unjust, and the just-plain-stupid. He’s comedian Lewis Black, best known for his acerbic commentaries on The Daily Show, and he’s back at the State Theatre in Minneapolis on January 20. See for details, and page 108 for more arts events. —TIM GIHRING

2. You resolved to be a better person this year, but now you need specifics. Here’s one: sign up with the Jeremiah Program to provide and prepare a meal for single moms and their children, who live on the Jeremiah campus in Minneapolis. For them, a homemade meal is one less thing to worry about. For you, a one-time commitment is all that’s required. Find more info at —RACHEL HUTTON

3. This is the year you will eat healthy. Try the View Restaurant & Lounge, where you can fork up mixed green salads and smoked fish and meat. Chef Joe Gentile lost 95 pounds eating right, and it translates to the menu. Add the View to your dining-out-light guide, along with Cafe Brenda, Ecopolitan, Birchwood Café, and Spoonriver. Your waistline will thank you. For more dining ideas, turn to page 85. —COURTNEY LEWIS

Seconds, Please

Minnesota regularly leads the nation in rankings of livability, cultural vitality, and so forth. But while being first is great, we’re not so full of ourselves that we can’t take pride in being near the top. Here are eight ways in which we’re, well, good enough:

» 2nd-largest coffee chain: Caribou
» 2nd-largest health insurer: UnitedHealth Group
» 2nd-largest state fair
» 2nd-largest discount retail chain: Target
» 2nd-largest producer of public radio: American Public Media
» 2nd-largest river in United States: Mississippi River
» 2nd-most National Teachers of the Year
» 2nd-in-command: U.S. Vice President Walter “Fritz” Mondale (1977–1981) —judy kogan

1st-place finishers: Starbucks, WellPoint, Texas State Fair, Wal-Mart, National Public Radio, Missouri River, California,
Jimmy Carter.

Fun, De-Iced

What would Rocky and Bullwinkle think? International Falls, which inspired the duo’s fictional hometown of Frostbite Falls, hopes to thaw its reputation as America’s freezer by changing the name of its annual festival from Icebox Days to Blast on the Border. Featuring frozen turkey bowling and the Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run, it’s also in February now instead of January, in hopes of warmer temps. Isn’t denial the first stage of hypothermia? —TIM GIHRING

Minnesota’s Magellan

January is a time to ponder the future. But you may want to seek out a guide with more credibility than the latest Bedside Astrologer. One of the best is Minnesota’s own Robyn Waters, the former vice president of trend at Target Corporation who now travels around the world to discover and disseminate not what’s next but what’s important. Her latest book is The Hummer and the Mini: Navigating the Contradictions of the New Trend Landscape (Penguin Portfolio, $24.95). While grounded in the corporate world, Waters’s influential work has broader relevance. She is particularly adept at identifying and explaining the paradoxes of our modern world—why, for example, the largest and smallest cars on the market are simultaneous bestsellers; why the aisles of Costco are filled with people wearing Prada; and why someone who eats only organic food chooses to be injected with the botulism bacterium. As for your prospects for romance in 2007? Only time will tell.

Laura Harley

Laura Harley

After taking time out for a spiritual pilgrimage and grad studies in counseling psychology, ex-Sliver member Laura Harley returns to make meditative techno, mixing arty English new wave with chill-out guitar tones. Sounding like Sade, Harley (a trained life coach) strives for meaningful messages and inner explorations amid rich, subtle arrangements. The empowerment anthems “Champion” and “Sing Out Loud” never lose their cool, but that’s in tune with Harley’s vision to make soothing, contemplative pop.

Paul Renz

Beyond Blues

If you claim to “like all music, as long as it’s good,” jazz guitarist Paul Renz has you covered. Renz is known for mentoring local music stars. His own quartet, featuring Hammond B-3 organist Brian Ziemniak, is impressive, whether playing angular fusion, joyous organ jazz, soulful slow blues, or hard-grooving bebop. Renz’s “I’ll Follow the Sun,” for instance, goes where it pleases, familiar yet always fresh. Beyond Blues is serious fun for everyone.