Day 1: Solving Ghost Puzzles in downtown Minneapolis

First of all, a big thanks to all of you who have Liked and Shared this blog so far. I’m putting my heart and soul into this and I intend to keep all of you entertained. I conceived of this plan many months ago, and when I finally allowed it to leak out I was expecting most people to tell me it was a completely stupid idea.

“What? You’re quitting your job so that you can drift around the country in a barely-functional car just to put out a half-baked Kerouac-imitation piece of web literature?”

And it may well be that many people secretly think that. After all, there are moments when I myself think I’ve made a huge mistake. But to my astonishment the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. So many individuals, particularly at my old workplace, have said things like, “Good for you!” and “If I could do that kind of thing, I would.” It made me realize that the feelings of frustration and futility I experienced in my old life were not unique; I think most people in Late Capitalist society experience profound urges to “break free”. It’s only because I lack any children or real estate – as well as my good health and my white male privilege – that allow me to do what so many people clearly would like to do.

Also, this morning one of you ghostlings made a neat suggestion that I do a “selfie a day” kind of thing. This will not only give me another opportunity to show you some of the fabulous, quirky, and sometimes deranged settings I encounter, but you’ll also be able to track the progress of my increasingly sunburnt skin and unkempt beard (I brought sunscreen but I habitually forget to use it, and I did not bring any kind of electric razor to manage the fuzz on my face). So with that in mind here’s my inaugural selfie, taken in front of the Bob Dylan mural on 5th and Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis:


One of my favorite Dylan lyrics is, “When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.” I think that might serve as a good motto for the Ghost on the Highway Tour.

I left my home in Madison, WI at around 5 in the morning, just as the day was dawning. Even if you’re not a morning person it’s a treat to drive at this hour just to watch the morning sun light up the trees and prairies in a golden amber, to see the thick mists rising up out of the marshlands. The further north you drive in Wisconsin, the better it gets. 


For most of the day almost everything that happened seemed fortuitous. The weather was perfect; upper 70s and brilliantly sunny. I stopped at a coffee shop in a residential neighborhood that had remarkably low prices (my previous job was in the coffee business, so when I show up in a cafe I take in every detail). Then I headed downtown and stopped at the Minnesota Institute of Art (MIA, pronounced “Mia” like it’s somebody’s name). The Institute was free and I was lucky enough to find free parking as well.

I don’t know if you’re supposed to take cell phone pictures in MIA, but I did anyway because I couldn’t disappoint you ghostlings. There were many, many astonishing pieces of art from all cultures, styles and time periods, but here were a few ones that struck a chord with me:





And there was SO much more.  The museum was absolutely incredible. I spent about 3 and a half hours there but could have easily spent 6-8. I only stopped because I was hungry, and I had so much more city to view…


I spent most of the rest of the day tooling around downtown Minneapolis. I crossed seemingly every major downtown bridge by foot at one point or another. Downtown Minneapolis is an architectural smorgasbord, one can feast on everything from abandoned mills to power plants to luxurious modern apartment buildings. But one of my favorite moments came as I sat down on a park bench in St. Anthony Falls Park. I discovered this…


I opened up the bag to discover the the front of a Betty Crocker box, cut up into a rudimentary jigsaw puzzle.

Well, I couldn’t just leave it there. Some anonymous Fellow Traveler Ghost had left it for me, and I felt obligated to solve the puzzle.


But even that didn’t feel like enough. The Fellow Traveler Ghost had left me a gift, and I had to give one in return.

So I flipped it over and wrote a silly poem on the back:


I feel I’ve made a marginal contribution to the Minneapolis Guerilla Art scene (not to mention dropped a shameless viral promotion for my blog!)

It was a long, exhausting walk through downtown but it was lovely and full of charming sights. Also I spent next to nothing; just $3 for 3 hours of parking near the Stone Arch Bridge (you read that right, 3 bucks for 3 hours!) and another $3 to rent a bike for 30 minutes. Not a bad day. I decided to turn in for the night and finish this post at the Airbnb room I’d rented for the night.

When I called the host, I realized my luck had run out. The guy, who had never contacted me prior to this moment despite multiple messages on my part, told me that the house was being painted and was thus unavailable. I was stunned. Who does something like that? And what the hell was I going to do now?

I was disappointed, but my disappointment fell short of anger. It was partly my fault. I had chosen the very cheapest Airbnb listing, the guy who had gotten no reviews, instead of trusting a more well-reviewed host at a slightly higher price. Lesson learned. Besides, this almost certainly will not be the last time a lodging situation falls through on this trip. I came into this knowing that disasters would happen, and I trust myself to roll with the punches.

I sit here now typing this up in a Starbucks. I booked another Airbnb in the north part of the city. Hopefully this guy is more reliable, and hopefully he has a shower for use which, after a long day of walking (and for a brief period, biking) in the hot sun, I desperately need.

Good night, ghostlings!

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