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Adevnture Issue - February 5, 2013






OFF THE EATEN PATH Kari Schuster takes her taste buds on an adventure, from pork bung to guinea pig.






JUST YOUR AVERAGE STUDENT/TEACHER SKI DATE Tom Reed got to take the hottest girl in sixth grade on a date. One minor detail: she was the teacher.


LETTERBOXING Matt Jacobs and Katie Sisneros share the secrets of letterboxing and tell us why we’d want to go hiking in search of a box, anyway.


TRAVEL DESTINATION: UKRAINE Al Mueller shares the delights and tribulations of living in the post-Communist Ukraine.




A FINE KETTLE OF FISH Sarah Brumble recounts a yarn told to her long ago: a tale of oceanic beauty and survival.





LETTER FROM THE EDITORIAL DIRECTOR I couldn’t tear myself away from this one wall of the Alec Soth exhibit. I loved all of his stuff--this was at the Walker a few years ago, when the Minneapolis-based photographer’s work was on view there--but I must have stood by this wall for over half an hour. It was a collection of photos, writings and artifacts related to people (all white men) who had chosen to leave society, shed their identities and head into the wilderness to live alone. I say “wilderness” because that word is romantic, and so was this display. It was solemn and mysterious. I frantically texted myself some of the poetry of these solitary men so I wouldn’t forget it: “On Lost Boy Mountain / Lester cries himself to sleep / This is a good night.” That’s what adventure is to me, marching into the unknown, and I’ve been fascinated by people like that for a long time. Maybe it’s because I know I could never be one of them. I enjoy being alone, and a lot of the personal experiences that I’d label “adventures” have come from traveling by myself: flying alone to Germany on impulse while I was staying in Italy for the summer, or while in New York, trekking out to Brooklyn to meet up with a girl I knew from Twitter. At heart, though, I’m a homebody. After a day or two in the woods, I’d get antsy for someone to talk to about rap music--or I would if nature hadn’t already snapped me in half like a twig by then. But “the unknown” is relative. Food that’s exotic and intimidating to one person might be a daily staple for another. Activities that come naturally to the native Minnesotans I know, like skiing and snowboarding and snowmobiling, are so “adventurous” that I’m too scared to try them. And even if you’re rooted in one place, you can take small adventures every day by visiting a new restaurant in an unfamiliar neighborhood or exploring a thrift store tucked away in a far corner of the city or signing up for a community ed class or striking up a conversation on the bus (well, proceed at your own risk with that last one). Adventure, I think, is often just about heaving yourself out of whatever plodding routine or butt-shaped couch dent you’re in. One of the things I’ve loved so far about getting to work on MPLSzine is how many people confess that this is one of the first times, if not the first, that they’ve submitted work for publication. Sending your creation to a stranger, or even someone you know who will judge your work, is a leap. It’s marching, at least a little bit, into the unknown--and it’s cheaper than plane tickets to Germany. If this Adventure issue leaves you craving something new and exciting, consider submitting. Adventure is out there, and you don’t even have to leave your couch dent to find it. Sincerely, Colleen


CONTRIBUTORS Drew Brockington is an illustrator and designer newly relocated to Minneapolis. He is currently working on a graphic novel. Sarah Brumble is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer/editor originally hailing from West Virginia and Portland, Oregon. When not sailing through shark-infested waters or walking overland into Nigeria, she can be found giving your favorite band a chance, taking photos with unreliable cameras, and riding her bicycle. Andrew Casey, one of MPLSzine’s Visual Directors, is a photographer residing in Minneapolis. He migrates towards shooting stationary objects and street scenes. He has had a long-held passion and appreciation for street art and graffiti, which led to a history of documenting the artwork under the alias Urban Camper. Chris Cloud is a Creative Thinkdoer and the Publication Director of MPLSzine. He is very excited that MPLSzine gets to highlight remarkable creative work from the MPLS community. He hopes you enjoy the fruits of their labor, time, and passion. See more at Kyle Coughlin, Illustration Director at MPLSzine, is a designer and illustrator living in Minneapolis. He enjoys drawing, screen printing, and being awesome. See his work at Paige Guggemos is a freelance designer and graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, part of the now-defunct Tarnish & Gold gallery, and former intern at LandLand and Highpoint Center for Printmaking. She makes mostly lighthearted works based on pop culture, collage, text, found objects, science, nature and lomography. Justin Flower was born in southeastern Iowa, grew up in northeastern Minnesota and currently resides in South Minneapolis. Clarissa Hamilton, Layout Director for MPLSzine, is a graduate from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She is a designer living and working in Minneapolis and has an obsession with making zines. Visit her website: Brian Hart, one of MPLSzine’s Visual Directors, is a Minneapolis-based artist. His eyes are always hungry. He hopes yours are, too. Google: brianmatthewhart Matthew Jacobs, Social Outreach Director at MPLSzine, is a PhD Candidate in the social sciences at the University of Minnesota. During the day he studies Chinese and religion under authoritarianism. At night he runs dance parties at the Uptown VFW. Say hello sometime at Tuesday Night Music Club Stephanie Jarrett was born and raised in the beauty of the Minnesota season. She has been actively creating her story since I was a child. Living in Saint Paul with her dog Roosevelt, she spends her time painting, writing, and rockin’ and rollin’ at Amsterdam. Current works in progress include the memoir Letters from Saint Paul, to be selfpublished in March 2013, and a second collection of art, large-scale landscapes painted in oils. Tom Johnson is a magazine reporter and editor. He works on Stubble, Crab and Egret, and GudBar in his spare time. Follow him on Twitter: @tomqj.

Jarad Jensen is an illustrator and designer living and working in Minneapolis. When he’s not tinkering around with visuals, he can usually be found tinkering around with his motorbikes. More work can be seen at Allegra Lockstadt was born in Canada, raised in Kentucky and has lived in Minneapolis since 2006. She’s an active illustrator whose work has appeared in GOOD magazine, Rookie Mag and Storey Publications. She also has worked with several Twin Cities organizations such as Pillsbury House Theatre, Springboard for the Arts, Light Grey Art Lab and Paper Darts to name a few. See more of her work at Jason Loeffler is an illustrator and graphic designer living in South Minneapolis. See more of his work at Clint McMahon makes t-shirts for Scared Panda and writes codes for a big company. After living in Chicago and NYC, he somehow found himself at home in Minneapolis. Someday he’ll find his island in the sun, but in the meantime he’s going to take a few pictures. Elberto Mueller was born in California where he no longer resides. Zoë Pizarro is a native Minneapolitan. She is MPLSzine’s new intern and a student at the University of Minneapolis. She is still uncomfortable calling herself an artist or writer, but she’s working on it. She lives for the future’s undisclosed adventures. Colleen Powers is MPLSzine’s Editorial Director. She was born Rockford, Illinois and lives in Northeast Minneapolis, and you can usually find her at dance parties, libraries or rap shows. Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” is her one weakness. Bill Rebholz is an illustrator living in Minneapolis. He often calls upon mid-century methodology and ideas, maintaining a balance of shape, line, texture, pattern and typography in order to achieve a designed yet dynamic illustration. When not illustrating or designing, Bill partakes in extracurricular activities including (but not limited to): sign painting/brush lettering, muralizing, freight watching, and sh*t talking [with friends]. See more of his work at / Tom Reed is a Minneapolis actor, writer and improviser best known for creating top-selling MN Fringe Festival musical parodies (Bite Me Twilight, The Hungry Games, Parry Hotter & the Half-Drunk Twins), crooning as Lounge-asaurus Rex, goofing around in award-winning short films, and singing and acting in musicals like Avenue Q and Next to Normal. He performs regularly at ComedySportz, Huge Theater and with the Rockstar Storytellers. More info at Alex Roob is a third-generation photographer currently based in Minneapolis. He is working toward a Masters of Arts in Teaching Mathematics at Hamline University. He likes to climb rocks and loves Frank’s hot sauce. It’s the best. Kari Schuster is an artist and writer residing in Northeast Minneapolis. She writes mostly about food, but sometimes about other things too. She enjoys doodling, eating nachos and general shenanigans. Follow her on Twitter: @kleeberella. Katie Sisneros is a PhD candidate in English Literature at the University of Minnesota. She is also a founding editor of The Tangential and connoisseur of fine rail whiskeys. She probably watches more TV than you.





Each of these images is a loose narrative of my relationship to adventure and travel, using salvaged postcards and text to convey a message or memory relating to adventure. The handmade collages are made of found materials (and some purchased vinyl letters) and are mounted on wood. The digital collage was a compilation, restructuring and tinting of the first two images. "Adventured" is a commentary on the feelings of going on adventure, being on an adventure, and finally how it feels when you're ... somewhere. It's a reflection of basic questions like... Are we there yet? Are we getting there? If you arrive, is the adventure over? Or is it just beginning? The handmade collages were an exploration of salvaged postcards and their story and history. The text used on these images is pulled from content on the front and backs of the postcards. In one case, a lyric from “Oregon Song�; in another, a personal message from one friend to another. The digital image is also my conclusion/stop and smell the roses picture: I am definitely somewhere and that sure is something / this is all an adventure. This adventure project is a continuation of a year-long study I have done of salvaged materials, mostly postcards, of pop themes and personal stories, called simply "postcard series.� Art and Words by Paige Guggemos ADVENTURE // MPLSzine











It’s easy to make jokes about the Midwestern cuisine where ketchup is considered spicy and our Swedish and German ancestors left behind a legacy of meat, potatoes and lutefisk. But look a little closer and you’ll find pockets of the metro area that are home to people from all regions of the world and food that, while in other cultures is often commonplace, for the western and specifically Midwestern palate, is sometimes considered bizarre and maybe a bit scary. For me, eating is an experience and an arena in which I can challenge myself. Durian, jellyfish, kangaroo, ostrich, blood cake, water scorpion, baby octopus so fresh it was still moving on the plate--these are just some of the items I’ve consumed. I will try anything once and everything is fair game because it is fun to go outside the comfort zone of the familiar. Written By Kari Schuster


CHIVA (GOAT), TRIPAS (INTESTINE), LENGUA (TONGUE) TACOS ADELITA’S MEXICAN RESTAURANT A little filling on a pair of corn tortillas, dressed simply with fresh cilantro, onions and a squeeze of lime, these tacos were delicious. The goat meat, though heavy in gaminess, was tender and sweet. The tongue was thick and meaty, and could easily be mistaken for a regular cut of beef. The tripas had a surprising umami taste of fried, crisp bacon or rich, fatty pork. Side note: after we had finished eating, the very sweet waitress asked if we enjoyed our food. When we gave an enthusiastic yes, she joked about the cook’s surprise when she had put the order in. As she explained, not many people order those items, and on top of that we were American. They were, understandably, curious.




MENUDO ADELITA’S MEXICAN RESTAURANT2405 CENTRAL AVE NE, MINNEAPOLIS Some may consider tripe and various offal as the “throwaway” bits when compared to the luxury cuts of an animal, but to people all over the world, these parts are frequently used, often because they are affordable, but also because people enjoy them. Mexico’s famous dish, Menudo, is a traditional soup with the key ingredient of cow’s stomach and is also thought to be a hangover cure. This was my first time eating Menudo, and I can see why it’s a comfort food. The piquant tomato chili-based broth was accented by generous handfuls of cilantro, onions and fresh lime and served with warm corn tortillas. The rough cuts of honeycomb tripe were mildly gamy, but again, it’s mostly about the texture, which is spongy and elastic. While the tripe was my least favorite part of the soup, I could have literally eaten bowl after bowl of the broth.



FISH MAW HIEP THANH BBQ & DELI Fish maw is the air bladder of a fish that is used to control its buoyancy. Often served in soups, fish maw is flavorless, soft, spongy and an excellent source of collagen. It has a pleasant feel that matched perfectly with the thick soup of crab meat and egg white. The fish maw absorbed the surrounding soup flavors and added a nice complexity to the overall texture of the soup. Luckily, this list is just the tip of the iceberg of what is available in the Twin Cities. There were actually more items than I could fit into one article, so the rest is up to you. If you are willing to do a little research, you can find anything. The important thing to remember is that it’s about taking a chance to explore what’s available in our city. We are home to many different people, from many different places, and what they bring with them is a whole other culture’s tastes, flavors and history. 18 MPLSzine // ADVENTURE

CALDO DE PATA (BEEF FOOT SOUP) LOS ANDES RESTAURANT, 317 WEST LAKE STREET, MINNEAPOLIS Served only on Saturdays, the beef foot soup was nothing short of perfection. The actual foot had no meat on it but was mostly bone and cartilage. The broth was rich with flavor, speckled with cilantro, mote, potatoes and lime. I gnawed on a bit of the thick, gelatinous foot, but focused on the filling, savory broth.




PORK BUNG KOLAP, 601 DALE ST N, ST. PAUL Kolap is one of the few places in the Twin Cities offering Cambodian cuisine and the only place I’ve found pork bung listed on the menu. In case the name of the dish isn’t enough to indicate what part of the pig I’m referring to, it is the last few inches of the intestinal tract. The last stop of the digestion train. That’s right, anus. While many may cringe at the idea of eating this portion of an animal, keep in mind it’s not uncommon for it to be used as casing for salami or sausages. The pork bung was sliced into quarter-inch rings. While the outside was delicate and crisp, the inner ring was soft and slightly rubbery. There is one thing to note about eating this part of the animal: the flavor. There was a faint taste that I can only describe as barn-like earthiness, which considering what that area is normally used for isn’t really surprising. ADVENTURE // MPLSzine



CUY (GUINEA PIG) LOS ANDES RESTAURANT While this rodent is a staple food item in the Andean region of South America, it’s a bit harder to find here. Over the past year, I tried multiple places around town only to be thwarted every time. But with a little planning, at Los Andes, the cuy is readily available. The menu states to call at least two hours ahead, but the waitress suggested at least three to four, since they actually have to have the guinea pig brought in. (From where, I don’t know. When asked, the staff member said she wasn’t sure.) So while my dining companion and I ate our beef foot soup, we scheduled a cuy for the following afternoon. The next day, we walked into the restaurant and spotted our cuy roasting on a spit, its golden skin glistening in the heat lamp. At $50, it’s not a cheap meal, but completely worth it. The cuy comes with potatoes, mote, lima beans and a side salad. They will either pre-cut it for you or you can have it whole like we did, which is much more impressive looking. The salty, crackly skin was delightfully crunchy. The meat was lean, sweet and tasted familiar, like a cross between pork and darkmeat chicken. I know for a lot of people this could be a challenging meal, as many people had these little furry friends as pets. But people also keep things like rabbits, chickens and pigs as pets, too, and we eat them regularly. Once you allow yourself to get past this mindset, you’ll find cuy to be a delicious alternative to the regular carnivorous options. ADVENTURE // MPLSzine


SEA CUCUMBER SZECHUAN, 2193 SNELLING AVE N, ST. PAUL Even though this marine animal looks an alien slug, once it’s been stir-fried with some veggies, the dish is pretty mundane. With a subtle fishy taste, its soft chewiness is reminiscent of gummy candy, or tapioca pearls. The sauce was salty and light and the crisp vegetables contrasted nicely against the texture of the sea cucumber. That said, I’ve discovered through my various food adventures that texture is my kryptonite. Oftentimes, some of the most exotic ingredients are actually neutral in flavor, but offer more textural substance than taste. So due to the overall gumminess of the sea cucumber, I could only manage a few bites before I threw in the napkin.


PIG STOMACH AND UTERUS HIEP THANH BBQ & DELI, 6201 BROOKLYN BLVD, BROOKLYN CENTER At Hiep Thanh, you can get rice platters with any range of meats from barbecue pork to roast duck. But if you really want to be adventurous, try the mixed hog stomach and uterus platter. While stomach isn’t that surprising, uterus is not one I’ve encountered on a menu before. Both were served chilled, drizzled with a fragrant sauce with warm spicy notes of star anise and clove. The stomach was chewy and had a subtle pork flavor. The uterus was much more challenging for me. Dense, with a tough, rubbery exterior lining, the interior had an intense iron taste.



PIG’S HEAD THE SAMPLE ROOM, 2124 MARSHALL ST NE, MINNEAPOLIS Nestled in the heart of Northeast, The Sample Room has been hailed for its diverse and skilled array of gourmet nibbles. So one may not expect this to be a home to the strange and unusual, but amongst the charcuterie and meat plates is the Half Pig’s Head Smorgasbord, which is literally half of a pig’s head. Accompanied by a side of onions, a hardboiled egg, pickles, and dollop of mustard, this noggin has it all: the ear, snout, skin, teeth… and an olive to top off the eye socket. Granted, it’s not a pretty dish and like crab legs, there’s a lot of work and deconstruction involved to reveal the tender meat along the jaw bone, the cheek and the back of the head. But the skin is crunchy with an abundance of crackling and the fat (of which there is plenty) is greasy, sticky and succulent. If you aren’t opposed to dissecting your dinner, then dive in and have fun. 26 MPLSzine // ADVENTURE



Photos By Clint McMahon




My sixth-grade teacher, Ms. Smith, was cursed with the combination of the desire to be a sixth-grade teacher and a body that looked like it had been designed by a sixth-grade boy. My vehemently feminist mother had taught me not to objectify women. But it didn’t take much for me to acknowledge that Ms. Smith was, in fact, young, tall, blond and possessed back-pain-inducing-sized breasts. And despite my best efforts, I had the hots for her. In hindsight, I feel bad for her. At the time, I think she felt bad for me. Eleven-year-old Tom was scrawny and long-haired enough to be routinely mistaken for a malnourished girl. My mom’s vehemence wasn’t limited to feminist issues, and she’d embedded in me a bizarre understanding of the world that was more useful for fighting “the man” than playing on a playground. “How can I go to ‘hell’ if I don’t believe in ‘hell’, or your construct of a so-called ‘god’,” I remember shouting at another sixth-grader during recess. Björn, my family’s ancient green Volvo sedan, had better social skills than me. That particular point in time was tough. My parents had recently divorced and my mom, sister and I had moved from Minnesota to Colorado so my mom could go to grad school. The weather was nice and the scenery was beautiful, but I was setting way too many fires in our kitchen sink to be considered “well-adjusted.” I didn’t have friends unless you count the radio DJs that I called way too often. Luckily, my harassing of DJs paid off when one day I was the tenth caller and won lift tickets to a local ski resort. The only problem was, I was the only one in my family that skied and I didn’t have any friends. [sad trombone] But WAIT. It was common knowledge that Ms. Smith was an avid skier. She talked about it in class--so it must be true and important and soooo beautiful. That was it. I would ask her to take me skiing. You know, kind of like a normal student/teacher, drive alone up into the mountains and go skiing for a whole day, just the two of you, kind of thing. It was your standard sixth-grader/sixth-grade teacher ski date.



Somehow my mom approved of this idea. Somehow Ms. Smith said yes. Probably because she was a broke teacher and this was free skiing, but I hoped she also had the secret hots for me. Did I mention I had stringy long red hair and a physique like a broom handle? This was going to be our magic moment. I’d start off by wooing her with my smarts, “Oh yeah, I did pretty well on the Iowa Basics.” And then I’d seal the deal with a flip of my ragged hair that was styled in a way that said, “I haven’t had a haircut in years.” I had the whole day planned out: a romantic winter journey up into the Rockies where we’d carve down the runs in parallel--swoosh, swoosh, [flirty giggle] swoosh. All topped off with some ski lodge hot chocolate. “Don’t worry, Ms. Smith, I got this. I’ve been saving up my [wink] allowance.” Then we’d wind our way back down the mountain casually chatting about marriage, children, the X-Men–whatever she wanted. It’s worth noting that this was all long before the giant scandals of young-ish female teachers sleeping with way underage boys. I get why that freaks everyone out, but I can tell you–at the time, being taken advantage of would have been a dream come true. I wanted nothing more than to get statutory with Ms. Smith. The day FINALLY arrived. I’d been skiing a few times back in Minnesota, and while I was no “Ms. Smith,” I was proficient. Everything was going great... until… I fell. Hard. I hit a patch of ice, my skis went flying one way, my poles went another way and my head went flying into the ice. I wasn’t dead, but I wasn’t fine, either. I was nauseous and felt awful and was definitely done skiing for the day. Ms. Smith was really cool about it. She helped me get my gear off and return it to the rental place. She walked me to the car and buckled me in. Then, she left me there while she skied for the rest of the day. I sat there, 11 years old. Alone. In a car. In winter. Hours from a hospital. Trying to sleep off (!) a concussion. Luckily, nothing happened. Whenever she tired of endangering my life while she skiied, Ms. Smith returned. Then we drove home and didn’t get married. Head injuries aside, it wasn’t a bad date. Sure, she didn’t know it was a date, but I got to spend 12 hours one-on-one with the hottest girl at my school. She made me feel cool for a day. Whether or not she knew that she was reaching out to someone who really needed it, Ms. Smith was a hero. I just wish I had more than awkward conversation, free skiing and a concussion to offer her in return. Written by Tom Reed Illustration by Jarad Jensen


Letterboxing: History in Adventure Hidden all around you, in the parks you frequent, around the trails you walk, and even in the coffee shops you try to work at but just end up playing on Facebook, there are letterboxes. Sometimes they are stuffed into the roots of elms and covered in leaves. Other times they are magnetically attached to the back of subway signs in a metropolis. I have stuck my hand deep into a large crack of a rock face and into the rotted center of a one hundred year-old fallen tree to retrieve a letterbox. One of the hardest things about letterboxing is explaining it to the uninitiated. In order to alleviate the confusion, I have summarized letterboxing as a haiku. Follow clues to box. Stamp their logbook, then stamp yours. Slyly replace box. Still not clear? Well let me back up and give a bit of letterboxing history. As the legend goes, the hobby was started on the British Isles in 1854. James 34 MPLSzine // ADVENTURE

Perrott of Chagford, a Victorian tour guide to the misty moorlands of Dartmoor, placed a bottle on the banks of Cranmere Pool to collect the name cards of travelers. The bottle was replaced by a tin and later a granite box and visitors would drop in self-addressed postcards to be sent by the next explorer, hence the name letterbox. After half a century, a logbook was placed in the box to keep track of visitors. A rubber stamp and inkpad were added to allow trekkers to take a memento of their journey. In lieu of a signature, frequent visitors brought along their own stamp to add to the logbook. Over the years, that one letterbox multiplied into thousands of letterboxes throughout Dartmoor and in other regions of the UK. The Twin Cities plays a role in the start of letterboxing in North America. The hobby was imported by way of a magazine article and a St. Paul man. On April 7, 1998, a Minnesota native named Daniel Servatius sent an email to a couple in Vermont asking about their interest in an article about Dartmoor letterboxing in the Smithsonian Magazine. That email marked the

birth of North American letterboxing. Servatius made a website, and the Vermonters hid some hand-carved stamps. A year later, there were nearly 100 letterboxes in over 20 states. Letterboxing has exploded since the early days. The website Atlas Quest estimates that 236,891 boxes have been created. Some of these have gone missing and others are special boxes such as “hitchhikers” that travel from box to box. In the U.S., about 74,000 traditional letterboxes are still active. The American style of letterboxing has also spread across the world, with letterboxes hidden in over 100 countries. I first started letterboxing close to a decade ago. One my friends, Rachel Eidson, discovered letterboxing before we embarked on a road trip to Canada. She had already carved her own stamp, but hadn’t found any boxes yet. While we were in Toronto, Rachel printed out the directions to a letterbox in the city. We took a ferry to a small island in Lake Ontario and hiked from one end to the other in search of something we weren’t even sure existed. After hours of exploration, we found a letterbox in the base of tree. I didn’t have a stamp, so I pressed my thumb in the inkpad and left my mark in the logbook. On our

journey back, we watched the sky soften to darkness and the downtown cityscape come alive. I was hooked after one. At first, letterboxing was a way to explore on road trips. We would drive to a random city on weekends, check out the thrift stores and dive bars, find a couple letterboxes, and sleep in Wal-Mart parking lots. Soon, letterboxing became the reason to travel. One of the conventions we attended was at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Letterboxes were hidden throughout the massive Mall of America-esque hotel. Eventually I and my roadtripping/letterboxing friends, moved to different states and different countries. My letterboxing adventures ceased. I haven’t letterboxed since I moved to Minneapolis five years ago. I actually collected stamps from Minnesota when I was a road tripper, but not as a resident of the state. This year, 2013, is the year. I gathered some friends, dug out my old supplies, and printed out the instructions for some letterboxes. On January 17, I led a group of virgin letterboxers on their first hunt. Written by Matthew Jacobs



How To Go Letterboxing: A Novice Tutorial “Letterboxing” sounds like some posh afternoon pastime enjoyed by Victorian aristocrats. It may well have been; I haven’t Googled it. But if my reaction at having found my first letterbox was any indication, it isn’t an activity for the stiff-upper-lipped. You have to want to get excited. You have to be incapable of mentally listing anything at that particular moment that you’d rather be doing than finding a small plastic container with a stamp and some paper in it. “HOLY CHRIST I FUCKING FOUND IT!” you have to want to scream, like the directions you just printed off the internet led you to the Ark of the Covenant. You could discover a chest of Nazi gold buried in your backyard, beneath which is hidden a secret tunnel into Narnia, and that frigging letterbox still gets you way more stoked. I can’t claim to have felt any of these things before I started, but I’ll be damned if there isn’t a healthy dose of joy to be had in heading out to Find a Thing That’s Hidden. STEP ONE: MAKE A STAMP Ours was an adventure that began with a series of mistakes. More specifically, three of us made the exact same mistake at the exact same time, and nobody had the presence of mind to stop for a second and say, “Whoa, hold up.” (I’m looking at you, seasoned letterbox veteran Matt Jacobs.) We sat down with our rubber squares, our ballpoint pens, our rubber knifey carvey tools (I believe that’s the proper nomenclature), and a steely resolve to do


some GODDAMN ART. Justin had carved a lovely spiraled rendition of his last name, Matt created the logo for his weekly Tuesday Night Music Club, and I decided to throw caution to the wind and depict Minnesota and Nebraska hugging beneath “NE <3 MN” in as close to a Futura font as one can manage with naught but a tiny pick axe. And they looked great! Except for one tiny eensy barely noticeable hardly noteworthy problem: We didn’t carve mirror images, so the stamps stamped backwards. We gleefully took our turns in the ink pad and stamped the test piece of paper. Our collective reaction can’t have been entirely unlike what Lenny looked like when he accidentally snapped that poor rabbit’s neck. Our faces fell as we slowly realized what we’d done. “But mine was so cuuuute!” I whined, as I laid my face in my hands. “Mine sorta says ‘Homer!’” said Justin, whose last name is definitely not Homer. I had to shelve my unabated perfectionism for the time being, because we had two Letterboxes to track down, like a squad of Juan Ponce de Leóns of South Minneapolis, and only a handful of daylight hours with which to do it.




STEP THREE: FIND A BOX We followed the written instructions into the heart of St. Mary’s Cemetery and tromped around in the snow for a while, looking for the correct headstone to indicate we’d found the spot where the Letterbox was hidden. “I FOUND IT!” I screamed, as my fellow hunters and our voracious photographer traipsed back toward me in the snow. Wedged between two headstones was a plastic container with a rubber stamp in a little felt pocket and a notepad full of other people’s names, stamps, and cities of origin. We added ours to the two dozen or so extant visitors’ stamps, from MPLS suburbs to Michigan and everywhere in between.

STEP TWO: MAKE A FRIEND Our first set of instructions took us to a Catholic cemetery in the Northrop neighborhood, before which we only had to take one minor detour because Matt spotted a pirate on the corner of 4th and 46th and yelled, “SERIOUSLY WE HAVE TO STOP! THIS IS AN ADVENTURE!” Oh my gosh, okay! Holy crap! We’ll go adventure over to that pirate, geez! And so we piled out of my car to take pictures with Shark (so called because that is apparently his name) who was not actually a pirate but, he informed us indignantly, a buccaneer. I had a sneaking suspicion he wasn’t even a real buccaneer, but you don’t argue with a man armed with a sword and leather gauntlets. He rolled his eyes when we asked for photos and said “This happens all the time,” as if he had any right whatsoever to be incensed. I suggested that maybe it was because he was in full seventeenth century swashbuckling regalia, to which he replied, “Yeah, I mean, I guess. Maybe.” My instinct was to point out his lack of self-awareness, until I remembered that I was carting a gaggle of hipsters armed with stamps who were excitedly hunting down small boxes, so I holstered my criticism. He tipped his black feathered hat at us and wished us a good afternoon and we boarded our vessel for the next leg of our journey. 38 MPLSzine // ADVENTURE

I felt compelled to offer a written apology for my mirror image stamp by choosing the handle “Ms. Backward Stamp,” and Justin proudly owned his new moniker by insisting his stamp actually pays tribute to The Iliad and The Odyssey. We slapped our cold fingers against our legs for a while, reintroducing blood flow after fiddling gloveless with the letterbox whilst standing literally on top of someone’s grave, and headed off in search of our second at the ominously named Witch’s Hat Water Tower.

STEP FOUR: FIND ANOTHER BOX As it turns out, the temperature and my level of excitement toward any activity are directly proportional. Witch’s Hat sits squat on top of a hill that, in the winter, is probably best scaled with some advanced ice climbing equipment. But I was wearing Chucks and fingerless Batman gloves, so that’d have to do. Matt insisted that I wouldn’t die, he really really swears it really, but all the encouragement in the world wasn’t persuading me down the other side of the hill without thicker padding and better health insurance.

make your own stamp!” But the stamp was a picture of Simba (emotionally damaged lion cub Simba; not grizzled, ethical conundrum grown-up Simba), so seriously, how bad can it be, Matt. We again added our backward stamps to the lot and Justin braved the hill-turned-luge-chute to rebury the letterbox. Back in the car, I filled my bitching about the cold quota for the day while secretly nursing pangs of jealousy over Matt’s black notebook full of dozens upon dozens of stamps from letterboxes he’s tracked down over the years. ----------

My valiant compatriots gingerly toed their way into the brush without me in search of a particularly dead-looking oak tree, all the while insisting I could follow them down safely. “Nope! I’m fine! Thanks though! I’ll just wait up here!” “But Katie! (Oof!) It’s not that slick! (Shit!) Seriously, it’s perfectly fine! (Gah, fshh, fuck!)” Yeah, right. The reused peanut butter jar they brought back up to the tower was equipped with a storebought stamp, which Matt cursed loudly. “You’re supposed to

You won’t actually know if my earlier statements about the sheer excitement of hunting down a letterbox were hyperbolic until you seek one out for yourself. But mark my words, if you don’t feel just a hint of that Christmas morning feeling, that discovering twenty bucks you left in your coat pocket from last winter feeling, that surprise! one last Rolo in what you thought was an empty packet of Rolos feeling, then you’re a cold-hearted bastard who cannot be pleased. So you should leave the letterboxing to those of us who want a wee bit of adventure, even if it’s just a few blocks from home. Written by Katie Sisneros ADVENTURE // MPLSzine


Now you too can have your own letterboxing adventure! The official MPLSzine letterbox is out there, waiting to be found! There is an extra surprise for the first finder(s) of the letterbox. You, the readers of MPLSzine, have exclusive access to this letterbox. The clues will be added to the major letterboxing sites after the next issue of MPLSzine, so don’t wait. Carve a stamp, grab a notebook, and go letterboxing! I have placed the box in a spot reminiscent of my first letterboxing experience. For optimal empathetic nostalgia, go looking for this letterbox at dusk.

Clues - Find yourself along the banks of the Mighty Mississippi where the roads are cobbled.

- Walk under the giant, metal hairpin protruding from the ground. - Look up.

- Walk to the establishment named after a famous author who once said “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.”

- Follow the lines suspended high above your head until you reach a set of stairs leading down into the river.

- Look to find an old railroad bridge that no long service steam engines. - Cross this bridge and turn left along the bank.

- At the top of the stairs, turn left toward the place you started. - Approach the tree that looks like a V. - Reach down deep into the center of the V to find your reward.

Don’t forget to check out the view of the city! Find more letterboxes, instructions on how to carve a stamp, and tips on placing your own letterboxes at: Atlas Quest Letterboxing North America Special thanks to Justin Flower and Bethany Nelson for their help in placing the box. Written and Placed by Matthew Jacobs

Backpacker’s bible “The Lonely Planet” has rated Ukraine the world’s number 3 travel destination in 2012, and for good reason. If you’d like to see Europe on a budget, you really must include Ukraine in your plans, and if you do, why not swing through the eastern half of the country, to a little city called Zaporozhye, and pay me a visit? I for one can’t think of a better place than cold, gray1 Zaporozhye to get stoned, lie around and listen to Fiona Apple records. Would you please join me, please? For the novice, let’s start with the basics: Ukraine is not a part of Russia; it is its own, autonomous, poorly run country with a (rapidly diminishing) population of 45 million. Or maybe 44 million by the time you read this. It is a democracy led by almost universally-despised, convicted rapist president Viktor Yanokovich, a prime minister who cannot

even speak Ukrainian, and a parliament that occasionally breaks down into fistfights. And yes, Ukrainian and Russian are two distinct languages in the Slavic language tree with similar (seemingly impossible to learn) grammar and vocabulary, and are written in the Cyrillic alphabet (here fraternity boys and ancient philosophy majors--likely not much overlap, there--will have a head start, as the letters are derived from Greek). But enough of the “facts”--just come here already! The culture is wild, the people wonderful, and the food is tolerable. The people, the cultural anthropologist in you mutters, scratching his or her chin. What of them? The Ukrainians are a sometimes proud, profoundly put-upon species of human, especially in the Eastern wasteland. Many are well-educated, although the bribe system is

It is currently the 11th of January. Since the New Year the sun has crept out from behind the clouds for approximately 4 hours. That was yesterday, and I took the opportunity to take a long walk, though by the afternoon the clouds had filled back in, and today, currently 10:36 AM, or 2:36 AM in Minneapolis, looking out the widow I see big chunky flakes of snow drifiting slowly downwards from a sky the same color as all the crumbling cement tenements which the citizens of this city (and practically all of Ukraine) call home. 1



pandemic (traveler’s tip: the word for bribe is vizyatka), perhaps part of the reason Ukrainian degrees are not accepted by American institutions. One will quickly notice that the streets are full of two classes of people: young and old. There seems to be some sort of tipping point, perhaps around 40 years of age, where the population, for its whole life youthful and vigorous, lets out a universal shriek: the skin wrinkles, the back hunches, teeth fall out from loose gums and clatter on the cement. Formerly virile moozhchini and zhenshini (men and women) at once become tired, decrepit dyedushki and babushki2 (grandfathers and grandmothers). What else of the people? Despite their fine educations, Ukrainians can be rather superstitious folk: Don’t let your girlfriend sit on that cold rock, it will freeze her ovaries and she’ll never have children. To the wandering stranger they are rather accommodating (assuming you are white), although there is a general, perhaps well-founded, distrust in the motives of “foreigners”: it is generally assumed that all Americans are here to find wives, Arabs are part of the drug trade, while Africans are simply here to scare people. Oh yes, Ukrainians are also a wonderfully racist people, a sometimes confusing fact considering in this town of 800,000 there are at most 1000 whose skin is not “lily-white.” Just in case you were wondering, they also hate homosexuals. So actually if you’re a Republican, Ukraine might be a perfect fit. What else? Oh dear, I’m so lonely out here in the provinces, all I want is for you to come visit me. I live in propinquity to one native English speaker, my roommate, an old Canadian man who, by trying to come across as a “world-weary” traveler through vaguely answering my questions about his former life, actually only fuels my suspicions that he is indeed on the run from some sort of criminal conviction: Why has this 55-year-old man, who has a son in Canada, not returned home even once in the last 16 years? He shuffles around the house in his grandpa slippers making vaguely sexual comments about young girls in my classes. I’m afraid that his 15 years of teaching in the “ESL teacher-cum-sexual 2 Note on the word babushka: the accent falls on the first syllable: BA-bushka, not ba-BOO-shka, as is commonly heard. Correct pronunciation of this oft-mispronounced word will get you buku bonus points with ‘the natives’




tourist” rich countries of Thailand, South Korea and China has lead him to believe it’s “okay” here for a grey-haired man to openly lust after 16-year-old girls. I could just puke. Local attractions? Two of the main landmarks in town maybe tell it all. The first is the hydroelectric plant at the end of main street, Dnipro Gas, which is really a fine piece of Soviet era architecture in the Russian Futurist vein, tall narrow white-piped spires, all lines hard and vertical, complete with a 50-foot statue of Lenin, right arm raised, showing the glorious communist future. The second is the McDonald’s restaurant a few blocks down the street. God how they love that McDonald’s. There is also the island Hortitsa, a sort of nature preserve/museum/park, which is really the pride of the locals, though it really isn’t part of the city so much as an area set aside, across the river and a world away from the smokestacks, car horns and schwarma stands.

But all isn’t really so bad. There are benefits to living in a broken-down town at the end of the world, graffiti for one: I can paint anywhere I want, it seems, and no one gives a damn. The food is cheap (at least by American standards)--I don’t think there’s a restaurant in town, no matter how classy, where I couldn’t order whatever I wanted off the menu without bothering to look at the cost. And perhaps the greatest discovery I’ve made in eastern Ukraine isn’t Ukrainian at all, but rather from neighboring Georgia. Never in my life had I tried spicy Kharcho soup or the baked egg-cheese-pastry perfection, somewhere between a croissant and a pizza, called Hachapourri. Oh god, in my empty little life those are the things that really get me by. That, I suppose, and my students. In spite of their lingering conviction that I am only here to find a beautiful Ukrainian wife,3 I truly enjoy every day in class. There is a definite desire to learn: these people

They really aren’t very humble regarding the supposed pulchritude of their bonnie lasses, a trend which perhaps needs to be realigned, as I think most of the “lookers” have emigrated or been snatched up by Russian oil tycoons--the women here strike me as no more or less attractive than anywhere else in the world, other than that they find disgusting fur coats to be the height of fashion. 3


are paying money, a scarce resource, to understand and speak English, and for the most part try their damnedest to better their comprehension, and by doing so, their lot in life. The majority of the people I deal with4 have drive and ambition that by comparison make Americans seem like flabby, whiny babies. What we have in Ukraine is a country, rich in history, culture and resources, being milked by politicians and foreign investors alike at the cost of the citizens’ well-being. Taxation is high, public services all but nonexistent. Over the last 20 years, 1 in 8 has emigrated to places like Poland, Russia, Germany and America. They do not want to leave Ukraine, it is their home, but it is a broken home with very little to offer even the most enterprising among them. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the politicians and criminals were the only people with the resources to buy up factories, markets and business enterprises. And buy up they did, the threadbare old story of the power vacuum, and mankind as a whole: Evolution does not necessarily entail a process of improvement, and oftentimes favors the most vicious elements of human nature. The average American pessimist will assure you that politicians are all crooks, but here they really are: ex-convicts with unholy amounts of cash, they can buy their way into just about any office. When election day came around this fall I asked who was going to vote, which caused most people to laugh. Why vote? The elections are all fixed, they say. How else did Yanukovich become president for a second time? Certainly my view is tainted, biased, as I’m seeing Ukraine from the bottom half: Zaporozhye is a factory city, a place the majority of my students openly state their desire of escaping: to nearby Dnipropetrovsk, to Kiev, Odessa, Poland or America. Anywhere, it would seem, away from the smokestacks, the filthy streets, the blood-red river that runs through the center of town (a river which is always warm, being that it originates in a steel

factory). And so they work their shitty jobs for little pay, squeeze onto the insanely crowded marshutka buses that grind their gears, crash into each other, and spew smoke across town, dream their little dreams and live for today: there is less of what one might call “taking the longview,” because realistically imagining the future would see a large number of people swinging by their necks at the end of home-tied nooses, many of which would likely snap (nooses, not necks) due to the inferior quality of most products available in Ukraine. But, so like come visit me already! I’m dying, literally dying to see you! Ukraine wants you, and it wants your money even more! If you’re a man, come, find a wife! They are only suspicious if you claim that’s not what you’re after! If you come right out and say “I’m here to take one of you ladies back to America with me,” you will have 50 women beating each other over the head with purses to have your hand in matrimony. And if you’re a woman, come here for the...culture! There are probably some museums somewhere, and people really seem to like “modern jazz,” whatever that is. And if you’re gay? Come to... practice keeping secrets! And black? Um, to take a trip, backwards in time? Written by Elberto Mueller

4 One student is a 25-year-old engineer, learning English, and a beekeeper on the side. He is also rabidly pro-Ukrainian (that is, anti-Russian), not to mention a total asshole who makes all the women in the class shudder with his blatantly sexist comments which are considered nasty even by misogynistic Ukrainian standards.









his tale is as true as I can tell it, given that it happened more than 60 years ago to someone else. The first time it was told to me, I was 14 and living on a 29-foot sailboat with my father and our longtime family friend, whom we simply call The Captain. The hero of our story is The Captain himself, but a nascent version of the man who sat before me.

Arriving at the site, they drift engineless to not scare their prey. Once they come to a stop, they fleetingly recognize that the sea isn’t as calm as they’d thought from shore. Never one to let such trivialities get in the way of a good time, The Captain pulls on his fins, spits in his mask, and rolls backwards into the water. With a thumbs-up, he descends while his friend monitors his bubbles on the surface.

We first meet him as he and a friend are playing hooky from high school. It’s the early 1950s in Miami, and the 17-year-olds have commandeered a neighbor’s tiny motorboat, hell bent on spending their afternoon at a favorite wreck off-shore. The purpose of their mission is simple and ancient: catch the biggest fish possible.

Only a few feet down, The Captain catches his first glimpse of a massive grouper. But this fish, like all the good ones, is tricky. He follows him to a crevice into which the fish disappears. Knowing better than to stalk its hole, The Captain continues his hunt elsewhere with the original prize in mind. He checks his air gauges often, wary of occasional spikes and drops in pressure that could damage his lungs.

Wearing stripes, tans and a vague sense of immortality, the pair cut through the water. Sea spray covers their stubble, stark white against their skin. They carry the first generation of tanks, regulators, masks and fins available to civilians. Having cost the boys a pretty penny and no small sweat to procure, these are some of their most prized possessions.

Finally The Captain loops back to find the grouper dumbly presenting its broadside. He exhales steadily and pulls the trigger, lodging a spear in the fish’s body. With a tug on the spear’s rope, The Captain floats the grouper into his outstretched hands and, pressing the barb flat against the rod, removes the

fish. Like always, he shoves the fish into the lining of his trunks for safekeeping. In subsequent retellings of this story, The Captain would raise his arms and spread them wide, as great storytellers are wont to do, demonstrating the massive size of this grouper from so long ago. Yet the fish suggested by his hands was the same size each time, as if it had grown as large as it dared, even in his memory.

Rising slowly to the surface, he begins to meditate on what would happen when he reenters the world above. He and his friend would marvel at the fish together, assessing the catch and the heroic efforts required to claim such a prize. His friend would prepare for his hunt while they wagered on whose fish would fetch a better price at market. His last glimpse of the fish before land would be tossing it into the cooler while his friend rolled into the water. The Captain breaks into the wobbly, rushing sunshine.

Kicking to raise himself above the swells, he shouts for his companion. Yet neither friend nor boat are to be found. His friend is gone. It does him no good to wonder where he’s gone and why, so The Captain turns to more pressing matters. He can just barely see land to the west. Though a strong swimmer, the receding tide creates a merciless counter current between The Captain and 52 MPLSzine // ADVENTURE

the shore. The tank on his back still has oxygen, but at nearly 40 pounds it’s begun to weigh on him after only a few minutes of treading water at the surface. Worst of all, the sun is far lower on the horizon than expected. And then there’s the matter of his fish, that beauty. Stuffed in his trunks, the grouper has started acting like chum for other hungry creatures whose feeding time is sunset.

The Captain sets to work, first by pulling the grouper from his pants. He stretches its mouth around the nozzle of the tank like that of the balloon it will shortly become, and fills the thing until it bobs airtight. Using the cord tethering spear to gun, he strings his equipment beneath the fish-cum-floatation device. He’ll come back for it all later. With his mind made up, our protagonist takes a leap of faith--not the last great leap in this story, but that comes later--and does the unthinkable: He swims away from shore in order to save himself, wearing nothing more than swim trunks and fins. The Captain has a secret, scarier strategy: Tens of miles north is a beacon, larger than a sea buoy but smaller than a manned lighthouse. By making his way another mile or so out to sea before turning north, the Gulf Stream’s steady current will afford him a few more knots than swimming elsewhere. Though he’ll have to travel farther to reach the beacon, he’ll be able to rest while still making progress. Sunlight gives way to darkness and the water turns glassy. The air temperature barely drops. He swims onward, reserving energy and body heat in equal part. Beneath him, hidden from the eye but not the

body, he feels the presence of very large things-things whose nature he can guess but chooses not to. As in his friend’s disappearance, the difference right now is not in the knowing. Eventually The Captain lays back, partly to conserve energy, but just as much for the pleasure of watching the constellations rise and fall across the cloudless night sky. Galaxies undulate around his hands and feet as he paddles mindlessly. The space between the heavens and earth dissolves in a pool of glowing plankton, each reflecting the other until the limits of the world give way entirely. When he recounted that night so long ago, an eerie tranquility took hold of our Captain. Hours are reproducible only in fractured pieces, woven with beauty and appreciation indescribable for those of us who have never lost ourselves in the ocean at night, engulfed by a sea of stars. As the east returns to life, The Captain catches sight of his beacon just as he begins to feel the effects of dehydration. Its light loops regularly, guiding him as he adjusts his course. Thoroughly legless and completely exhausted, the sight of salvation on the horizon gives him a final wind. Washed up with the soles of his feet against the base of the beacon, too weak to stand, The Captain looks up a few stories to see his friend perched along the light’s outer rail. Binoculars in hand, he is scanning the water at a 45-degree angle from where he had arrived. The Captain calls up to his friend. MISS ME? The friend runs around the catwalk, rubs his eyes and blinks. Peering at The Captain bobbing in the water, he lets out a cry and dives headfirst into the shallows below. Sheer panic sends The Captain swimming to the side of the friend he now fears lost, his neck surely having been broken in a moment of mania. Reaching toward him, the friend bursts unharmed from the water, sputtering and spitting. The two embrace and begin yelling wildly while a handful of Coast Guard officers gather on high, shaking their heads at the pair of lucky bastards.

Upon retrieving them from the water, the manhunt held throughout the previous night in The Captain’s honor is put to an end. Several glasses of water and a few sandwiches later, the officers humor the friends with a trip back to the wreck, whereupon The Captain is permitted to search--plainly in vain--for the most beautiful grouper of his life. Along the way, the pair catch up on their time apart: how The Captain’s bubbles had been lost in the chop within two minutes of his dive; how he’d been hunting so long before finally surfacing that the friend had feared that he’d drowned or been swallowed by a shark; how he’d gone for help; how the friend had known The Captain would head for the light, were he able; and how the friend was looking the wrong direction upon his arrival because he’d given up hope. In the decades following his night lost at sea, The Captain would become a lauded historian, fluent in three languages and dangerously clever in his first, yet he has always considered himself a seaman above all. The way he trails off at the end of his story evinces an ending that could have been, one in which he had disappeared into the universe, enveloped by the greatest love of his life. Instead, The Captain had experienced the dissolution of the world and lived to tell me the tale, seated aboard his ship amidst a sea of stars. Written by Sarah Brumble









These words I recorded upon a dream wall, in a space and time when I began to see the infinite possibilities that were waiting for me to accept them. Through the distance I envisioned it. I have now become it. I have been adventuring West for the past ten days. Arriving in Seattle, traveling through Portland, and a flight to San Francisco to hear Deepak Chopra speak. Finally, existing within the beauty of this ranch, I am deep in the forests of coastal Oregon. As soon as I saw the Pacific Ocean, I began running. The water rushing around me as I stood in silence, accepting everything the universe had in store for me. I realized I am awake in this symphonic dream. I am the conductor. To adventure, we must give ourselves to the unknowable. We must accept the best. We must open our eyes and see the dream, for we are it. Written By Stephanie Jarrett




Be part of MPLSzine! We’re looking for interviews, reviews, reported articles, essays, humor pieces, lists, infographics, comics, photos, and illustrations related to Minneapolis. (That relation can be loose--if the only connection is that you live here, that’s cool with us.) For now, we are not accepting fiction or poetry submissions--we know we can’t compete with the awesome literary magazines this town already has. We want to explore overlooked places and subcultures; make new connections and observations; share your heartbreaking, guffaw-worthy, and inspirational personal stories; and champion the people who make Minneapolis what it is. But we can’t do that without creative types sending us their stuff. To get you started, our theme for the next issues is BEAUTY publishes March 5 submissions due February 17 If you can’t contribute right away but want to learn more, email us anyway. We’d love to have you join us.

MPLSzine - The Adventure Issue  

MPLSzine, a submissions-based collaborative digital publication, is the latest project powered by the forces of MPLS Collective, a cornersto...

MPLSzine - The Adventure Issue  

MPLSzine, a submissions-based collaborative digital publication, is the latest project powered by the forces of MPLS Collective, a cornersto...