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Foshay Deck View

Among the benefits of living on the prairie is that you don’t have to climb very high to see where you stand in the world. All you need is the 400-foot perch of the reopened 31st-floor observation deck at the W Minneapolis–The Foshay. It’s one of only six open-air viewing decks in the country. And with its vintage telescopes you can glimpse what the politician who dedicated the tower in 1929 dubbed “the new Canaan”: Minnetonka, St. Paul, and beyond. Of course, you can also see into the buildings right around you (are they necking in that office?). But you aren’t here to spy (are you?). You’re here to be inspired. Grab a martini from the bar below and wander into the wind, to see where you are and where you want to go.

821 Marquette Ave., Minneapolis
Deck open daily, noon to 9 p.m., $8.

Package Delivery

How does your severance stack up?  


With staff reductions announced seemingly every day, the severance package has become the new bonus: Everybody’s getting one! Indeed, though such payouts were once reserved for a company’s most senior employees, that’s no longer the case. “It has become far more common now because companies understand the importance of maintaining a positive image,” says Jane Salmen of Blueprint, a firm that helps companies manage layoffs. How do the severance packages from the biggest names in local biz compare? Take a look: 

Market ConditionThe electronics retailer saw a 77 percent decline
in third-quarter profits.
The Maplewood-based behemoth reported an 11.7 decline in fourth-quarter  sales versus the
previous year.
The retailer’s profits were down 41 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. The financial services
company reported a net loss of $369 million in the fourth quarter of 2008. 
Workforce Reduction500 from buyouts,
250 from layoffs
2,400 layoffs
600 layoffs 300 layoffs
SeveranceNon-management buyout recipients were given an average
of 7.5 months’ pay in severance. Senior management received up to three years’ worth.
One week of pay for each year of employment, for the first 10 years of service; 1.5 weeks for each year beyond 10 years Laid-off employees received at least nine weeks of full pay; additional severance awarded based on years of service. All laid-off employees received severance, but amount was dependent on years of service
Health InsuranceOne year of continued coverage Six months subsidized COBRA One year of continued coverage; eligible for an additional 12 months of COBRA.Length of coverage based on years of service 
Outplacement$4,000 in services to help find a new job An outside firm provides job-placement assistanceAssistance with job search, resumé, and interview prep An outside firm provides job-placement assistance 
ExtrasOne year of life insurance; 210 new jobs, for which former employees can applyAll laid-off employees have the opportunity to apply for open positions within the company  Employee assistance program offers counseling, childcare referrals, and supportAccess to Lifeworks, a 24-hour phone line providing counseling services  


Life Down Under

A new book reveals the underbelly of the Twin Cities

Chances are, if you ask someone to name a contemporary Minnesota explorer, they won’t mention Greg Brick. But over the past two decades, as the 46-year-old St. Paul native recounts in his new book, Subterranean Twin Cities, Brick has embarked on some of the most harrowing expeditions imaginable—all within the city limits of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Or, to be precise, below city limits.

Entering through manholes, storm drains and natural openings, Brick has squeezed himself into the Twin Cities’ most out-of-the way spots: a cave below a mill ruin on the Mississippi, a buried stream that runs beneath north Minneapolis, a vast utility tunnel maze under downtown St. Paul.

To satisfy his curiosity about all things subterranean, Brick has even ventured into the sewers. He spent much of one long, lonely summer thigh-high in the gross stuff, as he investigated the Fort Road Labyrinth, a 30-mile network of hand-carved sewers below St. Paul, accompanied only by “the whiskered gauntlet”—Brick’s droll name for the plentiful sewer rats.

Brick is aware of the “ick factor” inherent in his pursuit, sometimes playing it for laughs in his book. But unlike many of his fellow urban explorers, Brick, a PhD candidate in geology, is also a serious researcher with literary ambitions. “I loved Walden,” he says. “I always thought it would be great if I could write a subterranean Walden.”

—Mike Mosedale

How to be a Better Minnesotan

Catching a Walleye

This month marks the start of walleye season, which seems like a good time to learn a little something about landing Minnesota’s most sought-after beast (or at least how to talk about it). The first thing to know is where to fish. About 80 percent of all walleye caught in Minnesota come from 250 of our 11,842 lakes, and a sizeable chunk of that harvest is from just six bodies of water: Mille Lacs, Leech Lake, Lake of the Woods, Winnibigoshish, Vermilion, and Rainy Lake. This time of year, the key to hooking our state fish once you hit the lake, says Bob Carlson, owner and operator of Mille Lacs Lake Guide Service, is to head for shallow, warmer water—and to use a Lindy Rig with live bait, specifically leeches. Carlson should know. He’s been fishing Mille Lacs for 45 years, though he’s kindly left plenty of walleye for you.


Photo by Aaron Day

Masters of Puppets

After 35 years, the May Day Parade has become the unlikeliest of things: a tradition


AMONG THE PROUD CIVIC traditions of Minneapolis—the Aquatennial, Sommerfest—only one has featured ants on stilts, a disrobing Uncle Sam, and semi-naked people draped in kale. And yet this cavalcade of social commentary known as the Minneapolis May Day Parade and Festival has somehow become one of the city’s most prominent events. This year, on its 35th anniversary, the parade is expected to draw some 35,000 people to Powderhorn Park, including Mayor R.T. Rybak.

It began innocently enough: a Vietnam War protest as envisioned by progressive puppeteers, who deemed the arrival of spring a fine occasion to invite a divided citizenry into the park for a little mingling and Maypole-dancing. But the war ended two weeks before the date, so a general celebration of life was held instead, featuring about 200 people, three puppets, and two accordions. Since then, the community has been invited to slap props together and brainstorm annual themes, a tradition so endearing to participants that some have arranged for their ashes to be spread on the spot where the Tree of Life puppet is raised in the park.

The George W. Bush years offered particularly inspired spectacles, says Sandy Spieler, the artistic director of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, which sponsors the event. She still marvels at the Uncle Sam puppet from 2005. He was riding in a papier-mâché Humvee when, Spieler says, “his patriotic suit cracked open, the car fell apart, and he stood there, just a man—naked.”
This year, it seemed the tradition might end; the cash-strapped theater closed for seven winter weeks. But it’s on, with a theme of sustainability—a rehearsal, Spieler suggests, for real life: “If you can’t envision where you want to be, how will you get there?” 


On a Roll

St. Paul-based Pearson’s Candy Company, maker of the Nut Goodie, the Salted Nut Roll, and the oft-overlooked Mint Pattie, turns 100 this month. Some numbers on their sweet success.

3 Number of brothers who founded Pearson’s in 1909
1912 Year the company created the Nut Goodie bar
5 cents Retail price of the Nut Goodie when it first hit the market
$1.05 Price today
1933 Year that Pearson’s created the Salted Nut Roll
2 Number of cases of Salted Nut Rolls that St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman bet on the Minnesota Wild to win a Stanley Cup playoff series, in 2007
470 Calories in a King Size Salted Nut Roll
10,800 Calories in a five-pound Salted Nut Roll
225,000 Number of Salted Nut Rolls produced by Pearson’s per day
35,000 Number of Nut Goodie bars produced per day
52 Number of weeks the Salted Nut Roll outsold Snickers last year in, of all places, Salt Lake City


The return of the hootenanny, with a twist

Forty years ago, hootenannies—those impromptu ingatherings of folkies singing together—were as common as, well, folksingers. And then they went the way of be-ins. But music critic/singer-songwriter Jim Walsh recently revived the concept at the Beat Coffeehouse in Minneapolis with his Mad Ripple Thursday Night Hootenanny, a pass-the-hat party of acoustic thrushes and unplugged rockers, such as the Grammy-winning Dan Wilson and Jayhawks bassist Marc Perlman. And now the Cedar in Minneapolis is putting its own hip spin on the concept, with its monthly 416 Club—for a $5 to $8 cover, you can hear up to seven local artists, chosen by a different musical act each time (curators have included Current darlings Aviette and Roma di Luna). Though the first few lineups stuck to the roots-music tradition, going forward you’re as likely to hear an avant-garde jazz quartet as a folkie. “The hosts have free rein to choose any artists they want,” says Michael Rossetto, the Cedar’s marketing coordinator. “Anything can happen.”


The Curtain

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


Ron Menzel
The actor scores a top role in the Guthrie’s new Tony Kushner play

Park Square Theatre

The rejuvenated playhouse announces a season of stars: Stacia Rice, James Williams, etc.

Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
Its big new season will open with…Little House on the Prairie

Penumbra Theatre
Budget cuts force the postponement of its next August Wilson play

Perpich Center for Arts Education

Governor Pawlenty proposes remaking the institution as a charter school


Seats for a Song

The best bargains in local arts 


Got less to spend on going out? Don’t stay home—a great night can be had for practically nothing if you know where to go and when.

» Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater
The local dance community always turns out on the last Wednesday of each month for the 9×22 dance showcase—a steal (for the $6 to $10 sliding ticket scale) considering the acts have included such dancers as Eiko and Koma, the acclaimed Japanese duo who previously performed at the Walker Art Center.

» The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
For as little as $10 a ticket, the ensemble’s Neighborhood Series allows you to see the same concert that the same virtuosic musicians perform at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, just at a suburban venue instead.

» Guthrie Theater
You know about the rush line, but consider this: Tickets for preview nights (generally Thursdays) are up to 30-percent cheaper than for regular shows, and every show is up to 25 percent cheaper on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays.

» Nautilus Music-Theater
The best-kept arts secret in town, Nautilus’s $5 Rough Cuts series offers the area’s top singer-actors (Bradley Greenwald, Norah Long, the Baldwin sisters) previewing opera and musical productions currently in development. (Plus free milk and cookies.)

» The Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant
For the puny $5 cover, it’s always worth seeing who shows up at the Dakota late-night series, which starts at 11:30 p.m. on weekends. Recently, some lucky patrons caught Wynton Marsalis jamming there after a performance at nearby Orchestra Hall.