What happens when you combine a couple of exhausted choir nerds, two Upper Midwest holiday concerts, and yours truly over the span of less than three days?
MAGIC, that's what. Hal, Matt and I made plans over a tipsy dinner this fall to attend a double-header of Luther College Christmas in Decorah, Iowa, and Concordia Christmas in Moorhead, Minnesota this past weekend. With the Luther show at 9:15pm Friday and Concordia at 7pm Saturday, and a collective 800-mile round trip on the books, insanity was sure to abound.
Hal picked Matt up from work downtown early Friday afternoon, then headed to Lakeville to rendezvous with me (and to drop our bags - we spent the night at the Schweghaus!). We hopped in Hal's car, turned on the Hamilton Mixtape, and before I knew it the 2.5 hour drive had flown by. I don't remember ever laughing so frequently, so hard, or over such random, inane things...so grateful to call Hal my roommate and that him being my roommate brought Matt into my life!
Matt, as an Iowa native and being familiar with Decorah, recommended Old Armory Barbecue for dinner...and from the moment we walked in, we knew it wouldn't disappoint.
As Matt struggled with barbecue sauces, we waited for our obscenely giant amount of brisket, pulled pork, grilled chicken nachos, ribs, and assorted sides to be ready before heading off to Toppling Goliath Brewery, Matt's self-professed favorite brewery in the whole world. While he claims he loves them for their superior beer, I think it's because he ran into no fewer than three people he knew within five minutes of entering the premises. Reason #1 Matt is awesome: he knows everybody, everywhere.
Meanwhile Hal and I took awkward selfies. Wtf spastic hand.
We headed to Concordia, evaded parking attendants, snagged a stellar spot, and selfied with the giant Christmas tree, with Matt legitimately on Hal's back at one point.
Having gotten our festive snap of the night, we proceeded to be utterly amazed by Luther's six choirs, the orchestra, and the program in general. I remember at one point feeling like we were just cocooned in this insane, otherworldly environment of pure sound and feeling...with over 300 musicians and singers, the atmosphere and talent was genuinely all-encompassing.
Once all the amazement and singalongs and genuine mind-boggling performances were over, we met up with Matt and Hal's friend Nick outside the concert hall! Nick teaches piano at Luther and, even five minutes after meeting him, I knew he was formidable and utterly lovely.
With a gas station stop taken care of, we drove home in time to tumble into Lakeville beds just after 3am. Yours truly, being incapable of sleeping in, was up less than four hours later to enjoy some Mama and Papa Bear time, before the boys woke up and we all got ready for leg 2!
Hal headed to downtown to pick up friends Colin and Amanda, which left these two clowns with three and a half hours to Ham Jam, sing along to Jason Robert Brown, and talk about everything from legal matters to families to relationships and feelings and ethos on life in general. Mattycal, you are utterly my favorite.
We made ridiculously good time in getting to Fargo, but we derailed slightly when Matt spotted his new favorite sign/pun in the world:
I actually pulled over and turned into the parking lot to ensure that this was captured for posterity (and giggles) before we met up with the other road trip crew. Lucky for us, Michael, being a Fargo native/local, was kind enough to join us for dinner and give us an insider's peek at the city. He steered us to the Hotel Donaldson (HoDo), which I had heard SO much about while dating Jon...his friends were all obsessed. Now I am too, having enjoyed their lavosh, half a Cuban, and a mind-blowingly good apple cider/whiskey/smoked cinnamon cocktail.
The show, like Luther, was amazing and immersive and left me just utterly dumbfounded at the talent of the student body. Seeing a choral show with four incredibly gifted singers added an entirely different dimension to the experience, too...they appreciated both shows in a technical manner that was beyond me and my mediocre singing voice, ha.
While the rest of the choir nerds had to get the show on the road and drive all the way back to the Cities after the show, Michael hosted me overnight and rolled out the red carpet showing me around Fargo! We stopped at Mezzaluna for cocktails and an insane cinnamon-pear panna cotta...
...before breezing through Dempsey's, The Toasted Frog, and Drunken Noodle, strolling around the utterly charming downtown and taking in the sights as we went.
Fargo! So cute! Such a surprise. I loved it!
Having strolled to our hearts' content, we headed home, jammied up and ate the best drunken noodles I've had since my Cambodia Thai days in South Bend...be still, my beating heart. Could've pretty much died and gone to heaven right then and there.
The next morning dawned with Michael making scrambles and fetching lattes from Atomic Coffee, before a truly comprehensive tour of Fargo. He's a killer tour guide - anecdotes, stories, gossip and commentary abounded, with lots of hopping of the car and exploring along the way. Favorite? Seeing Concordia College for the first time after all these years...it was a big part of my life for awhile there, and I fell in love with its pretty campus, charming architecture and the abundance of corn-related puns (their mascot is the Cobbers, represented by an ear of corn called "Kolonel." HILARITY ABOUNDS.)
Having explored to my heart's content, I hopped back in the car, started "Hamilton" at the beginning, and rapped my way home. Such a great weekend.
Random items of note:
1. Never stand next to Matt Callanan during a "Silent Night" singalong.
2. Don't clap until the VERY end at a Lutheran holiday choir concert, no matter how tempting it may be.
3. Mixing one Rainbow Mento with two peanut-butter M&Ms tastes remarkably like peanut butter and jelly.
4. Talking about Wagner with choir nerds is a surefire way to make a lifelong friend (Tried and proven, TWICE, this weekend.).
5. The road from Fargo to Minneapolis is exactly long enough for a 20-minute Mom chat and the entirety of "Hamilton." The road from Minneapolis to Fargo (and from Minneapolis to Decorah, for that matter), however, is best traveled with friends in tow.