Bil Browning

31 Days: Minneapolis' Cold Night Air

Filed By Bil Browning | September 01, 2011 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Minneapolis

The backstory behind this photo is after the break.


I'm doing a series of posts for 31 days that will feature a photo from my personal collections and the backstory behind the picture. I'm trying to stick with shots that have not appeared on the site before. I'm using the stories as a writing exercise to help me prepare for writing a book. You can find the rest of the series posts here:

When I went to Minneapolis earlier this year for the Creating Change conference, I'll admit that I hated the city. By the second day I was ready to pack up and go home. It was just too damn cold. Who in the world picks Minneapolis for a middle-of-winter conference?!

As a smoker, I'd go outside of the hotel to get my fix. The hotel, however, didn't provide any heating stations like most places do. I can realize that some places don't encourage smokers, but when it's below zero outside on a regular basis, you at least offer some sort of pittance for the addicted.

You couldn't really go outside to see much of the city. The hotel was connected to quite a bit of downtown with these big gerbil tubes so people don't have to go outside into the bitter cold - including a big food court. But the food court closed for the weekend, so if you wanted to eat you had to pay outrageous hotel prices or venture out into the arctic blasts. You know what's open most nights in downtown Minneapolis on a weekend? Nothing. They seem to roll up the streets at dusk. One night we tried going to four different restaurants but they were all closed.

While we ventured out one night to a gay bar, most of the rest of the time was spent inside the hotel. The last night in town though, I'd run out of smokes. I had to go outside if I didn't want to pay the jacked up prices at the hotel gift shop. I asked the concierge where the closest place was to buy cigarettes and he directed me to a nearby convenience store. He gave me a little map and said it was five blocks away or so.

Those were the coldest damn five blocks I've ever walked. It was -18. Muttering to myself about how cold it was and how miserable I was and how this or that or anything else I could think of to complain about, I trudged to the store and then warmed myself by the coolers (no shit!) for a while.

Instead of facing into the wind with my head down, on the way back to the hotel I kept my head up and decided to face adversity with, if not a smile, at least not a dark cloud hanging over my head like a cartoon character.

At the last stoplight before I made it back to the hotel, I actually looked around me and noticed how beautiful the city was in the cold dark night. It took me five attempts to take this photo with my phone. My hand kept shaking as I held the device and I had to take off a glove to push the button.

One of the reasons I was so bummed about missing the Netroots Nation conference in Minneapolis this summer was because I wanted to give the city another shot. If it can look this amazing when it's absolutely miserable outside, I can only imagine how beautiful it is when the weather is welcoming.

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You'd love Minneapolis in the summer or fall. I visited my friend Becca last October and it was great. Very pretty, photogenic and the people are usually so nice that it's downright scary. I need to start editing photos from that trip... thanks for reminding me.