Road Trip Part 2: Shabbos in Minneapolis

I am writing you from a coffee shop in Missoula, Montana and will be at a chabad in Spokane, Washington for shabbos. I will be writing in detail about this week which was awesome, I may be changing my plans to wander Idaho due to forest fires. I just created two photo albums on my “frum satire” facebook account. 

I have stayed in numerous Jewish communities around the country and therefore can rate the friendliness or unfriendliness of a specific community and Minneapolis was hands down on the top right along with St Louis, maybe that’s fitting since the place where the Jews live is in fact called St Louis Park. A beautiful neighborhood bursting with lush greenery, multiple lakes and the coolest houses I have ever seen. They aren’t like those “Monsey Houses” as I found out that I was not the only one that called them that. You know those houses that look like they were designed by a Wal Mart type architect. As long as they had that in your face style they worked. Nope, these houses weren’t of the variety with huge Roman columns in the front of a split level home. These were beauties resembling a boxy Frank Loyd Wright style, with huge upper level porches and airy windows. There were also indescribable houses like the huge one at the corner of the street where I was staying. I walked past it on shabbos when walking toward the lake one block away. I later learned it was owned by gays, figures, actually there are tons of gays in the community which is rather fancy. Not the Jewish community by the way.

So enough about the beauty of the actual city, lets get to the real action, why was the Jewish community awesome? I may be biased by where I stayed, you see the people I stayed by, a good buddy of mines parents- were very cool, very interesting and had amazing food- in fact the only thing missing from the entire experience in Minneapolis was the lack of woman folk.

I walked into my hosts house bearing a bottle of lukewarm Teal Lake cabernet-merlot and handed it to my hostess whoc was wearing a long black tichel. We started chatting about this and that, a little Jewish geography and all of the sudden I realized that this wasn’t an ordinary chat, this was a shidduch interrogation. I think that the rude style of New York women who are always rude in the shidduch intergoation process causing many to bash the entire system. But this women had just sliped right in and started the whole investigative process without my even suspecting it. It was very impressive to say the least, to think that it took me 25 minutes or so, until the classic question of “so where are you holding religiously?” was asked, I had no idea that was being weighed on the checks and balances scale of the casual shadchun who would never consider herself that.

As I was waiting to go to shull I was offered a cookie. I bit into the rather heavy chocolate chip cookie and suddenly I was in cookie heaven, this was not like one of those light crunchy doughless, overpriced pepridge farm chocolate chip disks. This was a cookie like no other, it had the weight of a larger cookie, though its diameter was that of a regular sized cookie. The ships were soft as well as the dense and doughy cake center. I did need a cup of milk but we were off to shull, and as we left I grabbed two more- completely in shock at the fact that these had come from a bakery called Fishmans.

On the outside my hosts would be called black hat, semi yeshivish- but in fact they are what the Modern Orthodox should be, but isn’t. My host hates the usage of the term “modern” since no matter how you use it, it denotes some sort of ignorance. If used to describe someone less frum- it is denoting that they are lax in their observance compared to you and if describing someone who is open minded it concludes that those who are “more frum” are closed minded. I hear where he is coming from, though I have yet to find a more appropriate way to describe people. For instance my hosts are both very frum people, they have kids who are working or in yeshiva, if it matters my host wears a black hat as does his son who was in Lakewood this past year. He learns daf yomi and knows his shiz, but on the other hand, they own a TV, internet, go to movies and read secular books and magazines and also believe in a secular education. This in fact is the true meaning of modern orthodoxy.

So the shull we davened at was very cool looking, and for all intents and purposes would be considered a black hat shull. But it wasn’t of a New York metro area black hat breed. You know those type of shulls that one walks into wearing a suede yarmulke and blue shirt and all the sudden every little kid is staring and wondering whether they are Jewish. Those type that when you walk in someone immediately comes up to you and shows you the place in the siddur- thinking that if you don’t have the proper attire you must be visiting one of your frummy cousins. This was not like that at all, and I don’t want to hear about the whole out of town thing, because it doesn’t apply so much- I have been to plenty unfriendly judgmental “out of town” communities.

It happens to be that not everyone was a black hatter, in fact there was the whole array of “external diversity” that we tend to think is diversity within the frum community. There were a few streimels, a guy with stockings, a bunch of Lubavitchers and a whole slew of colored shirt non-suit wearing fellows. I even spotted this large brown dude in a bright avocado colored shirt- that did stick out like a sore thumb. There were also two black hat and gartel wearing black dudes- real black dudes too- not those nerds who weren’t ghetto enough and decided to join the chosen people.

I have to hand it to my host that he was a very friendly and courteous guy, he brought me up to the Rabbi for an introduction and we rocked a bissle Jewish geography, he is one of my Rabbis classmates. Then he introduced me to everyone that came up to talk to him, it appeared that he was of some importance in the shull, since he sat in one of the front rows. On shabbos day I opted for the rear of the shull due to my need to pace and look at the shull bulletin numerous times when SADD (shull attention deficit disorder) kicks in.

I was definitely excited about the food, because my buddy Chaim was a great cook, which means that he learnt the skills somewhere. I also spotted a Bon Appetite magazine in the bathroom prior to the meal, which signaled a cook was lurking somewhere in the house. I understand that with the popularizing of cooking shows like the iron chef, people all love to cook, but not everyone “can” cook.

I spied some very good looking pieces of salmon soaking up the kitchen lights wallowing in their juices while waiting patiently on a piece of tin foil. After some amazing challah, the salmon was brought out. There was this Cajun spicy salmon which it turns out was store bought, and this very moist salmon drizzled with a mayo dressing with small chunks of olives and capers poking their green heads through the sea of cream. Both were great.

It would have been better if I had been on the road longer deprived of anything but canned beans and pasta, but it was still great. My mouth began to water and tried to suppress the urge to jump my hosts for the first piece of glorious roast with chunks of garlic dripping off its luxurious brown surface. I waited and luckily for that because there was a plate of rare and a plate of well done. Then there were these succulent pieces of schnitzel, which for some reason can be messed up I figured out weeks before, however this was exceptional schnitzel. I pounded food, I pounced on the salad glimmering its green and read colors across the table like a lighthouse beacon welcoming me home.

The conversation flowed and at one point got awkward when my buddies brother who was home and going to yeshiva the next week, said something describing someone as biggish. It was mad funny and I tried hard to suppress my laughter because the guests my hosts had were a large family besides the father who was kind of like Silent Bob. He would laugh like crazy and motion with his eyes, but his wife the one who responded to “biggish” as “so what exactly do you mean by biggish?” I truly love awkward moments when I am not the one who slipped up.

I have had some very awkward moments that sucked ass. Like the time I was sitting at my buddies poker night and had mentioned this guy at work who had a stump as one arm and wondered if he could roll a joint. My friends kicked me under the table, but of course I did not understand and kept saying “c’mon you know the guy with the stump?” Until I realized that the guy dealing the cards had only 3 fingers on each hand. I was floored until he said, “yes I could roll a joint with one hand.”

There was a Kiddush on shabbos day, but instead of going to the shull Kiddush, we went to a private Kiddush in someones house. My host said that it took forever for the rabbi to make Kiddush and we will go back and have some L’chaims, I don’t drink but if you happen to be a fan of good alcohol I would recommend going to Minneapolis for a shabbos. The Kiddush we went to had this incredibly spicy cholent, it had fried chili peppers, but it was amazing. It made my mouth and eyes water, but the whole onions and browned potatoes were welcomed by my palate.

I was looking forward to returning to shull so I could see what sort of woman folk were upstairs beyond the line of eye sight, fortunately or not, you couldn’t see what lay behind the mechitza since the balcony of the shull was built in a way which wouldn’t allow casual mechitza piercing. So we went back to shull for more food and alcohol and I realized what my buddies brother told me. Minneapolis was lacking in the hottie department, in fact there weren’t any girl over the age of 17 save for one who was actually very cute, but lived in Israel. I guess there can never be perfection, but in most departments it was great.

On shabbos afternoon after shluffing a bit I decided to take a walk around the hood. I walked two blocks down to the rather large lake that was one of hundreds around the city. It was gorgeous out, about 70 degrees and cloudless. I walked passed some of the greenest lawns I have ever seen and got to the lake and walked along the pathway around it. Folks were swimming, bicycling and fishing, it was awesome to see some many folks outdoors enjoying the weather. In fact Minneapolis is constantly rated as one of Americas healthiest cities.

As promised on motzoi shabbos, my friends brother took me to Byerly’s which was by far the nicest grocery store I have ever been in. First off all the store is carpeted. CAPETED!!! I inquired as to whether one would still be able to fish tail their shopping carts around the curb and I found out that yes, the carpeting was made in a such a way that it did provide ample smoothness for fishtails but that the classic squeaking of shopping cart wheels burning rubber would be silenced by the carpet. They also had all these crazy gourmet sections, I felt as if I was in some private shopping club as we passed large wheels of cheese and big piles of raw meats all stacked neatly displaying their wares to the impulse buyer who was only in the store for milk and bread.

I embarked from Minneapolis after shachris early Sunday morning. But not before I had grabbed a whole bunch of leftovers that would eventually eat in southeastern Montana later that day.