Minnesota Ice

…In his clas­sic travel book Blue High­ways: A Jour­ney Into Amer­ica, William Least Heat Moon noted some­thing sim­i­lar after trav­el­ing through the area in the late 1970s. “When I walked the North towns,” he wrote, “peo­ple, won­der­ing who the out­sider was, would look at me; but as soon as I nod­ded, they looked down, up, left, right, or turned around as if sum­moned by an invis­i­ble caller.… The effect on me was that I felt more alone than I ever had in the desert. I wished for the South where any topic is worth at least a brief exchange. And so I went across the cen­tral North, see­ing many peo­ple, but not often learn­ing where our lives crossed com­mon ground.”

Recently, I was talk­ing to a friend from Ten­nessee. I asked him, if you walked into a bar full of strangers down there, would it be easy to find some­one to talk to? He seemed to think it was a silly ques­tion and said, “Of course!” Another friend, from Ore­gon, told me about a con­ver­sa­tion he struck up with a stranger in a bar—who turned out to be from Texas. “Yep,” the Texan said, “Min­nesotans are the nicest peo­ple in the world. They’ll give you direc­tions any­where except their house.”

This Min­nesota Ice is the flip side to Min­nesota Nice. When pho­tog­ra­pher Alec Soth was asked for two words to describe Min­nesotans, the ones he chose seemed almost to be oppo­sites: friendly and remote.

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