Some people pay tribute to their favorite landmarks by collecting matchbooks or bumper stickers. Others wear T-shirts. Jeff Esler shows his love with Legos.
The 50-year-old has recently risen to mini fame for his intricate and impressively accurate Lego model of Nye's Polonaise Room, the beloved northeast Minneapolis piano and polka institution that got the wrecking ball last year.
"I'm not super proud of this," Esler said of his creation. "I'm kind of more embarrassed by it."
We disagree. What Esler has done is totally nerdy, but completely awesome.
On its engineering merits alone, the 1,000-piece plastic brick masterpiece deserves to be encased in glass. (It's safe on a shelf in Esler's man cave.)
It all started when Esler, an IT professional by day, opened a gift from his sister last Christmas. In the box were all the tiny plastic pieces that Esler played with as a kid.
Now with a daughter of his own who was developing an interest in Legos, Esler's childhood hobby was reborn.
After building Lego replicas of his south Minneapolis home and his Cross Lake cabin, Esler decided to pay tribute to his favorite Tuesday night hangout, the spot where he met his wife, Teresa.
"They were tearing it down the week I started to build it in Legos," he said.
After many shopping trips to the Lego Store at the Mall of America, and bids on eBay to find just the right pieces, the 3-D replica was born.
The scene is complete with a valet stand outside, and the "World's Most Dangerous Polka Band" inside. Even longtime bartender Corky Hisle is serving beer to tiny plastic patrons at the bar.
Upon completion, Esler's wife proudly shared photos of the project on her Facebook page. It has been shared more than 1,000 times.
Esler said he's had a couple of offers from people who want to buy the Lego masterpiece, but he hasn't yet decided what to do with it.
Esler said he's interested in recreating some of the Twin Cities' other notable buildings and landmarks, including the Grain Belt beer sign.
So far, nothing else is in the works. Esler added: "It takes too damn long."