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The Best of the Twin Cities (in the Worst of Times)

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Getty Images

Early each April, City Pages staffers are a stressed-out, frantic, panicked group of lemmings desperately trying to assemble our biggest issue of the year: The Best of the Twin Cities.

This April, we’re once again stressed-out, frantic, and panicked, but for a whoooole other set of reasons. Pandemic! Economic collapse! Toilet paper shortage! Our annual Best Of issue has, of course, been put on hold. (Not a lot of sense in writing about restaurants people can’t try and museums people can’t visit and athletes people can’t watch.)

But then, we had a thought. Why… can’t we do a best of issue? Sure, we’ve hardly left our homes in three weeks. Yes, everything feels unbearably, crushingly, irrevocably bad. There’s still… good… stuff out there though? Right? When was the last time anyone honored the humble can opener?

[Deep sigh]

I don’t know, man.

We’re trying to keep it light here, shouting out Zoom backgrounds and beans, but goddamn are these some extremely bleak times. Stay safe, stay six feet apart, and focus on flattening that dang curve. Wash your hands. Thank a healthcare worker or grocery store employee.

We’ll probably get through this, and we’ll see you on the other side. Until then, here’s the Best of the Twin Cities in the absolute worst of times.

Best Place to Enjoy Takeout
Your Car

Once upon a time, this recommendation would have started with a sturdy picnic blanket—an old sheet if hard-pressed—spread with care on a grassy expanse, in a park with a pleasant view. Ideally, a partner would be along for the fun, someone who likes waving maniacally at passing Segway tours. In our New Normal, we’re simply pleased as punch that so many takeout options exist for our dining pleasure. The best place to enjoy your haul? That’s easy. Only fools are out for clout during a pandemic, and ’gramming has lost lots of its luster, so we recommend enjoying this bounty directly from the box, in your car, while it’s still piping fresh, parked (at most) 100 yards from the point of retrieval. Don’t forget to take the long way home to appreciate the scenery from your safety bubble.

Getty Images

Getty Images

Best Time to Brush Your Teeth
12:45 p.m.

Absent other people, you can actually fine-tune your hygiene schedule. Mornings are hectic and lunch isn’t that far removed from breakfast. So why have your teeth clean for just for that tiny window? Coast with last night’s grime until post-lunch, and a fresh mouth will be your reward from immediately after lunch until dinner. Timing is everything here: As soon as the sandwich is down, ram a toothbrush in your mouth and scrub. This truly is the galaxy-brain approach to dentistry, though it should be noted the ADA has not and will never endorse our plan.

Best Kitchen Utensil
Can Opener

Almost no daily tasks can be accomplished without the aid of a coffee pot. However! Upon further investigation, this integral element of modern human existence is most often filed under “Small Kitchen Appliances,” and must therefore be stricken from consideration. Though we do appreciate the timeless appeal and versatility of the wooden spoon, little compares to the clutch performance of a tried-and-tested can opener… especially during our current scenario, in which we’ve hunkered into kinda-plush bunkers (though we try not to think of it like that). Besides, without a can opener, enjoying the following would be nigh unto impossible.

Best Canned Good
Beans

These days, snagging that last aluminum can from a picked-over grocery shelf feels like inheriting 15 ounces of pure silver. Few items fulfill all three of Joe Pera’s requirements for purchase—“Should I eat this? Will I eat this? Can I afford this food?”—like the humble bean. Chickpeas? For sure. Black beans? Hell yeah. Baked beans? If we must. Argue with us all you want here, but what’s as universally affordable, perpetually hoardable, shelf-stable, and totally enjoyable like can after can after can after can of beans? JP knows what’s up.

Best Method to Avoid Paying Rent
Abolish Private Property

Perhaps this strikes you as a little extreme, and certainly you should try alternate methods first. Call and see if your landlord is a reasonable person (or entity) who’ll accept little or no rent. If not, you can get shady: Forget to sign your check, change your phone number, hide in the closet when there’s a knock at the door. As a final measure, institute a democratic form of government and see if a market-based economy will consistently create a level of prosperity that allows its citizens access to food, shelter, and healthcare. Oh, you’ve tried all that already? Well, I guess there’s no alternative. Full communism it is.

Best Room
The Bathroom

The kitchen is definitely having A Moment thanks to its food, fire, trash can, and beer. The basement, despite its dreary reputation, is also an overlooked prize for those valuing privacy in such cloistered times. Both nonetheless pale in comparison to the dark-horse contender of domesticated “bliss.” For those of us lucky enough to have a roof over our heads, the room where we can carve out just a little goddamn privacy for fuck’s sake is the one with a porcelain throne. Yes, the bathroom has hot water providing steamy respite, a door that closes and locks, and comes complete with its very own social stigma that prevents (or delays) anyone from asking what, exactly, you’re doing in there. Plus, in a pinch, the tub can be used as a spot for a little snooze.

Best Way to Rationalize Having a Beer at 4 p.m.
The Governor Said Alcohol Is Essential

You know it, we know it, and now Gov. Tim Walz has said it: Liquor! Stores! Are! Essential! Breweries and distilleries, too! So quick, get thee to Zipp’s or Elevated or South Lyndale Liquors and fill the trunk. Opt for curbside crowler pickup at BlackStack or Bad Weather. Don’t want to leave the house? You can now get delivery from liquor stores like Henry and Son in Northeast, or from breweries like Bauhaus or Falling Knife or HeadFlyer. It’s called supporting small businesses, folks. We’ll drink a late-afternoon beer to that.

Best Food to Eat Directly From the Fridge
Just One Tiny Little Spoonful of Ice Cream

Just a spoonful, that’s all. Just one. A tiny little one. You get good stuff your body needs like calcium and maybe, uh, fruit or something? It’d be like taking medicine, right? And what if you took a spoonful every time you went to the kitchen? After all, how often do you go into the kitchen? And again, we’re talking a tiny little spoonful, right? What could that hurt? And what if maybe you started taking a couple extra trips to the kitchen? Do you see any danger in that? And then two spoonfuls at a time? Occasionally? As a treat? Just so long as they’re tiny little ones.

Best Meme
Leaving the Last One

Minnesotans can’t even hoard right, so ingrained is our fear of looking greedy. Usually, the refusal to grab the last of anything is associated with food. Picture the last doughnut in the break room getting cut in half, then fourths, then eighths, and so on, until an infinitesimal speck of doughnut dust literally evaporates. Turns out, we’ll even do that in a pandemic. As panic shopping habits set in, photos circulated online of solitary items left unbought: one mandarin orange, one carton of eggs, a lone cucumber, a bag of toilet paper—in one case, shoppers left a potato. One potato! Leaving a single spud is about as useful as taking one home, which is to say, not at all—unless you’re into laughing at your own culture’s well-meaning absurdities. We might as well.

Best Essential Trip Out of the Home
Picking Up Your Anxiety Meds

Here’s a conundrum many of us will face in the coming weeks: You need to pick up your meds, but in order to do so you need to do things that trigger your anxiety, like leaving your house, riding a bus, and putting yourself at risk of exposure. But if anything is essential in these times of chaos, it’s staying on top of your mental health. So know that regardless of what you’re living with—bipolar, depression, general anxiety disorder, schizophrenia—you’re not alone, and your trip to the pharmacy is as critical as a run to the grocery store. We can get through this, but we have to take care of ourselves first.

Best Visual Reminder of What 6 ft. Looks Like
One José Berríos

Not half of José Berríos, not two José Berríoses: Exactly one José Berríos. The Minnesota Twins’ ace stands 6-foot-flat, meaning imagining him lying horizontally is the perfect reference point for your human distancing. Now, typically you see Berríos standing tall atop the pitcher’s mound, so for maximum effect, you’ll want to turn your computer sideways while watching highlight clips on YouTube. Start with the 25-year-old righty whipping 11 Ks against the Marlins last July. It might just save your life.

Best Deranged Coping Mechanism
Sending Your Dog Into Flight

This is a tough one. Do we honor the guy who’s carving art in his Oreo icing? The people wearing their wedding dresses to breakfast? The sports visionary who invented Swiffer-Roomba curling? All strong contenders, but we’ve gotta give it up for the family who put enough helium balloons on their dog to lift it into the air like noted aeronaut… [Googles “noted aeronauts”] Stanley Spencer. Truly unhinged, truly chaotic, and a little scientific. You love to see it.

Best Pivot
Distilleries Making Hand Sanitizer

As evidenced by the many cocktail tomes out there, liquor is super versatile. It turns out distilleries are too, as many have added hand sanitizer to the list of things they produce. “Basically we have everything here: bottling equipment, alcohol,” Norseman Distillery’s Scott Ervin told CP. “We started calling around to see if people needed it—hundreds of people did, and we’ve been filling bottles ever since.” As the need for supplies grows critical, local distilleries have tapped in to help. Tattersall, Du Nord, and Brother Justus teamed up to form All Hands—an organization that helps get sanitizer to hospitals, shelters, and other businesses—and Vikre in Duluth and Drake’s Organic Spirits also switched to sanitizer.

Best Way to Induce a Panic Spiral
A Scroll Through Twitter

Check this out: It’s an app, right there on your phone next to the button that plays music and the one that tells you what the weather’s like, and it contains an endless feed of all the worst possible information there is. It allows you to see thousands of takes on everything from the lies the president told today to the latest unemployment numbers to the current coronavirus death totals. It even provides un-fact-checked “news” from all over the world. But hey, people have been tweeting some pretty good COVID-19 memes lately.

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Getty Images

Best Way to Rationalize Having a Beer at 2 p.m.
Accidentally Opened Twitter

Stop doing that!

Best Toilet Paper Alternative
A Bidet

To quote CP film critic, clean ass advocate, and objectively correct person Tony Libera: “If my dog shits on the floor, I don’t just wipe it up with a paper towel and then go about my day as if it’s clean.” Get over yourselves, America! Bidets rule. And the TP aisles of Target may be barren for weeks, but you know what’s not? Hello. Tushy. Dot. Com.

Best Reason to Brush Your Hair
Zoom Meeting

When everyone is banned from nearly all public spaces, there’s not much reason to put effort into looking presentable, let alone polished. So yeah, most of us have probably let the grooming slide a little. Your cat/children/live-in boyfriend have already seen you in a no-frills state. Your boss and co-workers, however, presumably haven’t, and probably don’t want to. So slap on some mascara, put on a bra, and take down your tangled bun and brush out the nest. For the next 40 minutes you can use that “bar on fire” backdrop, but you still gotta be the “this is fine” guy.

Best Splurge
Fancy Local Coffee Beans

Remember coffee shops? They were these places where you could go, plop down six bucks on a latte, and pleasantly kill a little time. You might have been alone, but you were alone together with all the baristas and Tinder dates and families and folks on computers. Now that we’re alone alone, we’ve taken comfort in recreating the coffee shop experience at home with spendy local beans. Roasteries like Peace and Northern Coffeeworks will deliver right to your door, and most Twin Cities companies (Dogwood, Spyhouse, Five Watt, Bootstrap) offer online ordering if you can’t make it to the shop or the co-op.

Best “Essential” Service
GameStop

Yes, we’re playing an obscene amount of games during lockdown, but putting staffers at risk so folks can buy a physical copy of Animal Crossing isn’t cool. GameStop would disagree. “We believe GameStop is classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open during this time,” the business reasoned in a staff memo, obtained by tech site Kotaku, on March 19. Counterpoint: bullshit. Even in coronavirus-free times, it’s debatable whether GameStop is “essential retail.” There’s this thing called the internet, see, where online purchases are extremely popular. You can download the brand-new Doom directly to your gaming system without leaving your house. Just close up shop, guys.

Best Hand-Washing Song
John Denver: “Take Me Home, Country Roads”

Have you, too, sung the ABCs innumerable times while scrubbing the flesh off your palms and blessedly opposable digits? (You know what they say: No flesh is safe flesh!) With so much happening in the world, it’s easy to zone out somewhere around the letter “Q” and… bungle the ending, starting a spiral that culminates in concerns over whether coronavirus symptoms include regressing to preschool levels of education. Take it from us: There’s an entire pop canon rife for circumventing this scenario. The best, by far, is one that everyone already sings aloud anyway: “Country roads, take me home/To the place I belong/West Virginia, mountain momma/Take me home, country roads” Don’t rush it. Just close your eyes and bask.

Best-Dressed
No One

Not a single one of us has changed clothes in the past four days, and anyone who says differently is a cop. Even frontline workers like (actual) cops, nurses, and doctors routinely wear the same uniform, day in and day out. And while the unwashed masses wallow in elective sartorial decay, the aforementioned workers are experiencing a shortage of personal protective equipment, causing some to reuse the few supplies they do have. They’d love to change if they could! “This shortage of PPE is a huge problem,” said Governor Walz. “The question is, will they have enough next week? Or more importantly, will they have enough on when the peak is there? At this time, they don’t yet.” This is all a very bad looq at best, and downright deadly at worst.

Best Thing to Hoard
Your Streaming List

We don’t know how long we’re going to be isolated in our homes. You’ve already binge-watched Tiger King and Love Is Blind. What now? You can only live on Community reruns for so long. That’s why it’s important to start rationing the good stuff before you end up with only the shitty seasons of Shameless left in your queue. Plan ahead, savor the stuff you’re excited for, and when it comes to passwords, do the opposite of hoarding—consider sharing logins with friends and family.

Best Bike Path
Literally Anywhere You Can Spread Out

We love you, Chain of Lakes. And you, Stone Arch Bridge. You too, Midtown Greenway. But wow, those photos of people packing every path in the Twin Cities… some of y’all don’t know what six feet looks like and it shows. Our walking and riding trails are so crowded right now we’ve found ourselves biking down Park and Portland to maintain best social distancing practices rather than hopping on the path. Park and Portland, people! Get out there and exercise, 100 percent. Just try to do it somewhere that isn’t teeming with bodies.

Best Goofy Zoom Background
The Oval Office

Who’s the Commander-in-Chief? Your floating head, that’s who! Wield all the powers of the U.S. presidency as you make meeting banter or kick it with the boys… at least visually. Much like Borat when he sat on his king-of-the-castle chair, you’re master of your domain when you’re holding court from the White House. Your colleagues and friends may not respect you now, but the power of this gag, at least implicitly, might change that for the better.

Best Sports Alternative
Reading Old Stats

Watching live sports is really just paying your dues until the payoff: those sweet, sweet statistics. They’re an endless source of enjoyment for the fans: career home runs, Bo Jackson’s 1987 yards-per-carry average of 6.8, the Timberwolves’ depressing season-by-season records. It’s all gravy, baby! Stats tell stories; stats dictate gambling and fantasy; stats are the most interesting thing in the whole dang world. In fact, City Pages deals in stats with our up-to-second analytics of reader metrics. And you know the most valuable stat of all? You, the unique visitor.

Best Way to Rationalize Having a Beer at 12 p.m.
Summer’s Canceled

It’s for the best, but Jesus. No beaches, no pools, no Pride, no cheap shows or patio happy hour at the Guthrie… might as well crack that High Life at high noon.

Best Playground Substitute
A Good Climbing Tree

Kids’ daytime hours have now pivoted to screen mode. We know if we don’t get them out for some movement, after a few hours they’ll turn into small, somehow louder Tasmanian Devils. Options are meager; even outdoor playgrounds are off-limits these days. To keep those climbing muscles in shape, consider the tree. An abundant resource in our northern clime (for now), evergreens in particular often have horizontal, ladder-like branches that make them quite fun (and almost too easy) to clamber up. This pursuit need not be limited to children, either. Turns out the green-veiled view from way up in a tree can really change one’s perspective. Make sure to find one away from people, and sanitize your hands after, just in case.

Getty Images

Getty Images

Best Amount of Time to Speak to your Dog
16 Hours

Man’s best friend is in hog heaven these days. Dogs, the famously needy beasts we domesticated some number of years ago, love having their masters around, and master ain’t got nowhere to go these days. As dog owners already know, the increasing grip of quarantine-induced madness means increased conversations with your pooch. And ya know what? Fuck it! Dogs may only react with yips and howls, but they’re still killer conversationalists in their own wordless way. Go ahead, banter with your dog during every waking hour. Crazy? Hardly. The real craziness is not owning a dog at all.

Best Talking Head
Michael Osterholm

This is Michael Osterholm’s moment. As director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, Osterholm has basically been prepping for exactly this kind of crisis his whole career. As a talking head expert, he’s been just about everywhere: CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, and even Fox News, where he called a Trump appointee’s response to equipment shortages “incompetent and absolutely incoherent.” Our favorite Osterholm appearance was on The Joe Rogan Experience, where he patiently explained that vitamins won’t fight coronavirus, and neither will spending 20 minutes in the sauna. Over the course of a 95-minute interview, Rogan said “Wow” nine times, and only suggested we test out a COVID-19 vaccine on “the rapists” once. “Yeah,” Osterholm answered. “So anyway, the bottom line…” and on he went, injecting facts into a moment that needs as many as it can get.

Best Tiger King Plot Twist
The One That’s Yet to Happen

“Everybody that works here knows what I am talking about, ’cause you’ve seen his balls,” Joe Exotic mused during a eulogy for his dead lover, Travis Maldonado. “They were like golden nuggets to that boy.” While that particular plot twist was tragic (sincerely: RIP, Travis), every moment in the lives of Tiger King’s key players is a surprise teabagging waiting to happen. Is Joe Exotic going to drop more truth bombs? (Probably.) Will he get out of jail? (Probably not; some very damning text messages were omitted from the documentary.) Will cold case investigators find new evidence in the disappearance of Carol Baskin’s husband? (Ooh!) Will Jeff Lowe bang the nanny while his wife frantically tries to lose weight? (Three-way marriage!) Who knows what we’ll find in these nutsacks in the rumored follow-up season.

Best Way to Convince Your Parents to Stay the Fuck Home
Make Them Listen to Bob Dylan’s “Murder Most Foul”

Maybe there are Boomers who don’t love Bob Dylan. And maybe there are Boomers who don’t care about the JFK assassination. But Boomers who aren’t interested in either? Not dang likely. In the interest of keeping restless old folks preoccupied, presumably, Dylan released a 17-minute song about the JFK assassination a couple weeks ago—a genuine public service. So if you’re afflicted with a free-range mom and dad who insist on showing that ol’ virus who’s boss, just make them promise they’ll listen all the way through before they go traipsing out to share tainted microbes with their pals. Who knows—they might get bored and never even get to the end. And then they can never leave their home again.

Best Wild Animal Trend
Turkey Town

Everyone knows Minneapolis has bands of roving wild turkeys that congregate in neighborhoods, especially Northeast, and give no fucks. Coronavirus cleared the streets, and these modern-day dinosaurs have expanded their turf. One was videoed strolling downtown, jaywalking right in front of an emptied Minneapolis City Hall, as if taunting the city itself. A trio was photographed crossing West Lake Street in Uptown. One lingered outside Smitten Kitten, another looked in the window of the Eastside Co-op. Be-wattled bands roved residential streets unperturbed. When orders to stay home are lifted and normal life resumes, we will undoubtedly find these bullies thinking every block in the city belongs to them. That’s where they’re wrong. But, uh, you tell them. Let us know when they’re gone.

Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune

Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune

Best Thing to Touch That’s Not Your Face
Your Junk

Look, you don’t need us to tell you to masturbate. If you’ve got a lot of time on your hands, you’ve got your hands on your genitals a lot of the time. Experts say: That’s good! Sex with another person is fraught with peril right now, but you’re not gonna give yourself the virus by jacking off. And self-pleasure is also (they say) a way to “boost your confidence” (hmm, not in our experience, but go on) and “strengthen your immune system.” Just make sure you wash your hands afterward. I mean, you’ll probably want to anyway. We hope.

Best Way to Rationalize Having a Beer at 10 a.m.
World’s Ending, Baybeee!

Now, advocating total sicko-mode nihilism as we stare down the apocalypse’s gaping maw seems dire and depressing, but… have you seen the news lately? If this ship’s going down, we’re going down with an ice-cold brewdawg in hand. It’s *knocks on the Earth’s supply of wood* far more likely the human experiment will persevere than the alternative, so deploy this tongue-in-cheek doomsday logic with a wink and as responsibly as possible. For the time being, an IPA ranks pretty low on the list of things that’ll kill ya.

All photos from Getty Images/iStockphoto