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Why Minneapolis? Why Saint Paul? Well, the Mississippi River, that’s why. On the east bank is St. Paul, on the west the larger Minneapolis, with a more impressive skyline, a graceful and casual flow of new skyscrapers and great looking older stone buildings. On our way to the gig at the western edge of the city, we pass a very eccentric old brewery, with castle type turrets and haphazard brick warehouse add-ons. The city has preserved this industrial age oddity as a library.

We drive through a comfortably fading old neighborhood to Mayslacks, the neighborhood bar, another classic on our tour. Big and dark, and we lug the gear in through a side patio and set up. Paul Metsa, local legend who’s played at Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid, does a solo set, with some burning acoustic guitar and an epic ballad of Jack Ruby, with JFK conspiracy lyrics that warm Paul L’s paranoid heart. The Hawks hit the stage with a strong set, egged on by Rob’s many friends and relatives who fill the bar. Then a giant of a man, Sherwin Linton, takes the stage in 70’s wraparound deluxe sunglasses and tall black hat, leads his Hawks backup band through Johnny Cash classics. He’s having a great time and so are we, and Sherwin stretches his two song appearance into seven or eight tunes. A big man with a big voice.

Next morning Dennis Pelowski, Rob’s fellow Rochester Minnesotan and our attorney who steered us through our record deal, takes us to a local legend: Al’s Breakfast, in Dinkytown, the university section of Minnesota where Bob Dylan got his start. Al’s Breakfast, est. 1930’s or 1940’s, is a long and narrow room packed to its edges with a long bar and stools looking across to an oven and stoves, where beautiful young women cook and serve. We’re all in it together, customers and cooks, in a dingy smoke stained low ceiling cocoon. The food is delicious. Delicious. Three of us get the Jose, which is two poached eggs atop hash browns smothered in hot sauce and cheese. Delicious. Blueberry pancakes. Delicious. Paul M. and Shawn order Spike, which is scrambled eggs with mushrooms, onions, garlic, cheese and tomatoes. Outstanding. There is no better breakfast in America. Not since the late and lamented Gutter in Highland Park.

It’s drizzling rain as we say goodbye to Dennis and head east on the 94. A thousand miles to Big Sky. Here we go.

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