Lileks: To City Hall: Brags aren't easy, don't cha know?

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 17, 2014 - 8:43 PM

The All-Star Game is over, but the civic chest-pounding continues. In case you missed the announcement, this has been the week for Minneapolitans to give a full-throated hooray for their town whenever possible. It’s called the Best Week of Bragging About Minneapolis Ever, because modern adults like to sound like7-year-olds describing a birthday party that had a Dora the Explorer bouncy tent.

Didn’t our mothers tell us not to brag? Didn’t we just hate that kid who was always going on and on about his prowess or the size of his comic book collection or how his dad’s car had super overhead-cam hemi whatevers? Aren’t we so leery of seeming bigheaded that we say “I don’t mean to brag” if we suspect we might be doing just that?

Yes. But now we have a mayoral edict commanding us to walk around with our thumbs hooked in our suspenders, grinning with self-congratulation. This is the civic equivalent of those bumper stickers that say MY CHILD IS AN HONOR STUDENT AT EDWINA DERPA MIDDLE SCHOOL.

Not that we don’t have reasons to brag. This is an excellent city. But it’s not exactly stuffed with reticent Swedes who can’t pry their thin lips open enough to let the sin of Pride pass over their tongues. Minneapolitans brag about this place all the time, and we have a word for those who can’t bring themselves to praise it: Arizonans.

I’ve done my share of insufferable boosting, but even this made me cringe: “When you go to their cities,” the mayor said — jokingly, we’re told — “talk about how disappointing [they] are compared to Minneapolis.”

That’ll go over well.

“Hey, how can you live here in Bummers Grove? You just have Olive Garden for ethnic food. In Minneapolis we have a wide range of dining choices, from funky kitchens on Eat Street to elegant, white-tablecloth restaurants that OW! You hit me! Why did you hit me?”

The categories for recommended bragging have been: Innovation, Move, Creative, One, Sustainable, City by Nature, and Bikes! (Exclamation point in the original; usually when most people say “Bikes!” like that it’s because 50 of them are coming at you the wrong way down the street.) We’re encouraged to tweet relevant bragtastic aspects, so #bragmpls will “trend on Twitter,” a phrase that is as important to real life as “a Popsicle is melting in Kuala Lumpur.” No one moves to a city because it’s trending on Twitter. It may mean something to people who are staring at their phones all day, but just because “#solarflares” is trending doesn’t mean people want to move to the sun.

There’s also a contest. The city’s official pro-brag website has 60 activities, and you’re supposed to do as many as possible, take pictures, send them in, and hope you win lunch with the mayor. You expect the list to have trendy suggestions aimed at the thin stratum of young urban professionals — do gluten-free yoga in a brew pub! — but mostly it’s just, you know, things we do anyway. “Get a cone at your favorite ice cream shop” is a fairly typical brag-provoking suggestion. Well, access to frozen confections is not exactly unique. No one buys a cone and thinks IN YOUR FACE, PORTLAND.

The whole thing is harmless, and I’m a tiresome grump for not getting into the spirit, I know. As a means of reminding us that life here is pretty good, it’s fine. But Pride goes before the Fall. Well, first Pride, then the State Fair, then the Fall. If we’re going to brag, then brag, but afterward let us balance the scales.

The Best Week of Bragging About Minneapolis Ever should be followed with Most Ruthless Week of Unsparing Self-Examination Ever, with a list of 60 activities you should not do. Take a picture of yourself doing these things, send them in, and win a lunch with the mayor, where she tells you to knock it off, because you’re just insufferable.

Instagram some pictures of the beets you got at the farmers market, and add the hashtags #wow and #suchbeets, so everyone knows you go to the farmers market instead of Cub. You are not the Anne Geddes of root vegetables. Give it a rest.

When biking to work, pause at the stop sign and take a long, conspicuous drink from your water bottle as if you are a model in a L’Oréal commercial shaking her long, luxuriant mane. No one’s impressed.

Write a letter to the Legislature asking them to loosen restrictions on selling beer at breweries, and tell a friend that this “sort of makes you the Rosa Parks of taprooms.” Don’t do that.

Correct someone’s spelling of Jucy Lucy, even though they just said the words instead of writing them down, but you know that most people spell it wrong, so you’d better make sure.

Use the phrase “we could leverage disruptive social media” when planning a garage sale.

Complain about neighborhood parking because of a new restaurant — within two weeks of telling someone how you like living in a city with lots of neighborhood restaurants.

And so on. By the way, someone came up with a competing hashtag, #humblestpaul, but it only got about 15 tweets. Seems right. They’d say more about how good life is across the river, but, well, they’re too modest.

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