Dreaming of an Artists’ Pub (in Fargo)

For years I’ve longed for a true artists’ pub in Fargo. I’m not picky, but such a pub should include at a majority of the following: Scrabble, PBR tallboys, trivia nights, stuffed owls, plenteous references to literature, a modicum of televisions, free popcorn and/or pretzels with the order of any drink, dirty floors, clean bathrooms, wireless internet, Trivial Pursuit, Guinness on tap, at least three quality Scotch Whiskeys, an outdoor seating area, moderately poor service, occasion live music, and, of course, drink discounts for grad students and professors (and upcharges for undergraduates). I don’t ask for much.

So, when I was assigned to accomplish several “mini challenges” for a grad school course on the rhetoric of creativity, my eye landed on the option to “take an ‘Artist’s Date’ to a spot that engenders inspiration twice in a week…” I went searching for that Artists’ Pub of my dreams.

IMG_1253For the project, I visited two new bars in the Loretta Building, a gorgeous, newly renovated multi-use building at the center of downtown Fargo. My experience was, shall we say, mixed.

At the handsomely appointed Boiler Room, I sat at the bar and ordered a pint of Farmer’s Daughter blonde ale from the Lucette Brewing Company. Since nobody else in sight was working on a laptop, I decided to keep my computer in my bag. Father than writing a blog post on my laptop—my most common creative activity—I proceeded to jot some thoughts on my trusty Levenger folio with real, dead-tree paper. It was a semi-creative spot for me, but not the stuff of dreams.

The next day I journeyed next door to D’Vine, a wine bar established, as their logo prominently claims, in 2014. I enjoyed friendly service, but then, right before I pulled out my iPad mini, I found this on the menu:

Part of our design we chose to exclude televisions to revive the beauty of interaction, conversation and to minimize distractions of modern technologies. We also ask that the use of cell phones be limited to texting only. Our space is so small that either of these would distract from the environment we have so meticulously prepared for you. If you need to use your phone we ask that you go outside to do so. Thank you for joining us today…

Talk about squelching my creative spirit! The menu note did not mention tweeting, so I immediately opened Twitter on my phone—half wondering if the barman would check if I was using it for “texting only.” Thankfully, I didn’t get kicked out, but I didn’t stay for long either. Unsurprisingly, there was no wifi.

I appreciate the goals of a wine bar prioritizing conviviality over obnoxious cell phone chats, but has (Fargo) culture really reached the point that we must specify how cell phones must be used? Have we become so numb to surveillance tactics that we accept courtesy control from restaurant managers?

In my short search, I did not find a true Fargo artists’ pub. I’m still looking for a place where I wouldn’t feel out of place grading papers on my laptop accompanied by tall Fargo Brewing Company O’Fest. We have some fairly respectable coffee shops in town, locations that certainly inspire creativity for me, but we don’t yet have anything bordering on an artists’ pub. (Not that we’re lacking some great bars. My favs include JL Beers, Rhombus Guys, the HoDo, and Mezzaluna.)

Now, I find myself at home, finishing this post with a self-poured bourbon. It looks like, for the time being, I’ll be supplying my own creative spirits.

Choosing What’s Best for College

As college begins, student faces hundreds of new choices. But what if we opened ourselves to the uncomfortable notion that you don’t always have to choose. Life’s moments have a funny way of choosing you.


Sabbath for Professors…and Students?

As the school year begins, I’m considering an “email Sabbath” clause for my syllabi. But does that mean students, too, should take a day to rest?


Sundry Summer Celebrations

I’m not sure what constitutes the official “end of summer” these days, but I think it’s here for me. Faculty workshops have replaced writing time. Syllabus prep has replaced reading time. New, longer lists of to-dos have replaced my unfinished lists of summer projects. Ready or not, it’s back to school…


Religion & Social Change: Imagining Experiential Learning

Have you had a positive (or negative) experience with service learning, and/or community-based writing assignments? What should I consider as my religion and social change course planning begins?


Can a Church Split Truly Be Gracious?

I’m grateful to report that Religion Dispatches published an essay of mine! In the piece, “Can a Church Split Truly Be Gracious?” I describe and reflect upon my experience leading a commission (officially a “Presbytery Engagement Team”) to investigate a church seeking to leave my presbytery, the Presbytery of Northern Plains. The process was fraught, troubling, and yet […]


Visualizing Recent PC(USA) Sexuality & Marriage Decisions

Have you ever wondered: what would happen if I built a digital representation of important PC(USA) ordination stands, sexuality, and marriage votes from 1996 forward? Of course, not. That’s ridiculous. What sort of nerdy, tech-curious, Presbyterian pastor and professor-type would want to do such a thing? Ummm…. Ok, well, this summer I did [click here now to jump […]


“Hannah, Delivered” a review

Hannah, Delivered is a fine new novel by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew. Elizabeth and I met two summers ago at the Collegeville Institute, and re-met last spring at the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College. When I received my copy, Elizabeth included a kind note that read, in part,“I’d love for Hannah to speak […]


What is Digital Humanities? (in 400 words or less)

For my last blog post for Texts, Maps, Networks: Digital Methods in the Humanities, I’d like to respond to a question I get fairly often. “What is digital humanities?” Since those who ask it come from all walks of life—churchy, professory, friendy—I’m going to attempt to go both deep and wide in, well, exactly 400 words. Here goes nothing…