Saturday, June 20, 2009

Minnesota Part Three: Scooby Doo Where Are You?

Saturday dawned with a glorious fury matched only by Bebe Benet in her Lion King wig. To say that it was a perfect day would diminish a temperature that felt as if you were immersed in a warm bath, cooled to the universal ideal behind the idea of the most gently caressing breeze. Mercurial gold slicked cat's eye green oak leaves, tossing stately broken shadows across uniform grass blades marching in military precise waves across the open field, as I arrived, late to my own damn barbecue in Powderhorn Park.

The third day of our trip was the time I had scheduled to see the bulk of the people I adore that live in Minneapolis. Since my Mother moved north to Duluth in early spring, I could no longer slip into the city and make excuses for not visiting the extended family. So, in a five and a half day trip to Minnesota, I had to squeeze in three cities roughly 500 round trip miles from each other. Thus, there was no way in hell that I was going to be able to spend quality one-on-one time with the people I love. As a matter of fact, only Susan and Rocki, Taylour, and Pookie and Wifey were able to get some sit down time...much of that having to do with luck and flexible schedules.

So, before heading to Minnesota I sent out an invitation to my friends asking them to join me for a four hour cook out in the best damn park in the world: Powderhorn. Powderhorn is a mecca in Minneapolis. As a child, I lived a block from the park. It figures in to many of my best childhood memories. As an adult, following college, almost organically, most of my close friends from undergrad moved into the neighborhood. In the late 90s, Powderhorn was undergoing a Renaissance that only marginally relied on gentrification. Long term residents began taking back control of the neighborhood from working poor folks that had turned to drugs and prostitution to make ends meet. A vibrant arts community began flourishing. Progressive folks and like minded queer women expanded their hold on the area. The neighborhood participated in a queer invasion of City Hall by elected one of three queer council members (of 13 total) to the City Council in the early 2000s. And, by a margin of less than 100 votes, narrowly missed putting a third Green party member on the Minneapolis City Council.

The park, roughly a mile in circumference, sits hidden in the middle of the neighborhood, with a natural lake sitting smack dab in the middle. This park, incidentally, is also home to the May Day Parade...a celebration of labor and the return of Spring that draws more than 50,000 people to the 'hood each May.

This particular June day, about 30 of my close friends showed up to cook and eat and eat and cook. Children abounded including Giselle and Isa, my two nieces...daughters of my fam Rodrigo and Nubia. The kids lovingly refer to me as Tia (Aunty) Brandon. Of course, Isa runs up and gives me a hug. From behind her back she pulls a delightfully colorful art piece and announces, “Tia Brandon...this is for David.”

I almost dropped her. She hadn't even MET David yet. And here he is, movin' in on the love and devotion reserved to Tia Brandon.

Actually, David spent most of the day playing with the girls, and they absolutely loved him and he them. It made me smile broadly to see it.

By 1pm, we had three grills going with kabobs, veggie burgers, corn on the cob, wieners, and Hmong sausages going. To date, I have never ever eaten anything in the sausage family that tastes like Hmong sausage. Find the nearest Hmong person you can...and beg them to make or direct you to where you can find these sausages. Trade one of your children for them if you have to. I promise. It's worth it.

At the fiesta were my unfailing group of friends: The Scoobies. The Scooby Gang aka Team Superflick aka The Ultramoviastic Squad is comprised of Peter, Debbie, Hayley, Dawn, Cathy, David, Kristina, myself and Jesus with adjunct members Ruben, Anna Mikelson, Erik Streed, Eric Hardisty and, now, David. We have also added two junior members, Lucia and Gabriel, with the newest and most junior member, Samuel, still in vitiro. Most of the group went to high school together (Kristina and I were the odd balls out), and all of us have known each other since at least high school...with the exception of David and Ruben (they married into the family). But, through rehab and funerals, birthdays and births, we have been there for each other for a long, long, time. I expect that I will be at the funerals of these people (or they at mine) depending on which of us kills the other first...probably over a game of Phase 10 gone horribly horribly wrong.

With only a small fire, started by Boa who threw still smouldering coals into the metal garbage can, to mar the was with great sadness that I wished all the amazing friends/family that came out to say hello, a loving farewell.

David and I loaded the leftover Cheez-Its into the rental, and made our way two hours North by Northwest to Brainerd to visit family.

Now, my family history is a bit complicated. My Mother has been married four times, my Father has been married twice, I was raised by my first step-father until I was 13, and through him I came to have another step-Mother named Melanie, who had a daughter from a previous relationship. My birth father was remarried to my step-Mom Becky, from whom he is now divorced, and they had four children together, one of whom died as a child. Are you confused yet? Lost? No worries...I had to draw David a map.

From these various family mixings I have five biological siblings: Jason, Julius, Jasmine, Shannon and Kinchee (who died when he was an infant). I also have three additional siblings, two of whom that are related to my brother Jason by blood, Ella and Clinton, and one sibling that is not related by blood to either me or my brother but is the half sister of Ella and Clinton.

If some Baginses are Boffins and some Boffins are Boyles, who won Britain's Got Talent?

In the end, as I told David, it doesn't matter the blood status...I have eight siblings: Jason, Jasmine, Shannon, Julius, Clinton, Ella, Kinchee and Meta. I am the oldest of the bunch. I have “known” all of them since birth except for Meta, who I met the day before her 6th birthday, and I love each of them fiercely.

And, Melanie, who has never been legally a Mother to me, was most definitely a Mother to me...including the year that I lived with her in the 7th grade. Family is family...and only antiquated Euro-centric systems of family value blood quantum over emotional attachment, love, and support.

Our Saturday was filled with family, memories, and a whole mess of Mayflies that had hatched and carpeted the walls and tables of the lakeside restaurant where we had dinner that night. But no infestation of mayflies could dim the joy of spending a glorious day, surrounded by family and friends, and reveling in the love with which the world has blessed me.


  1. I've lived in Powderhorn for a little over a year and my wife has lived here for three. We love the neighborhood, but feel it could really go either way. Sometimes I think it's getting better, sometimes I don't. Living within 1 block of the park is great.

  2. I have lived in, on, or near the park for a good chunk of time since 1987...though their may be bumps in the the last 20+ years the park and the neighborhood have only gotten stronger.


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