June Hot Dish
This month, I introduce to you TJ, our June Hot Dish, a feature that highlights a fun and fabulous single person from Minnesota who lives in New York. You can meet TJ at the Minnesota Monthly Happy Hour – Summer Camp Style at Washington Commons in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn this Friday, June 4th.
TJ took the plunge that so many young folks with a dream take – he moved to New York City last September without a job and only a 2-week living arrangement. Now a mere 8 months later, he’s already making his mark on the place. TJ had been working in Minneapolis at advertising firm Fallon when a friend suggested moving to New York City. He thought it sounded exciting and decided to give it a shot.
His cousin put him and his buddy up in his one bedroom apartment in Spanish Harlem for 15 days. Immediately, this was nothing like anything he’d experienced growing up in Minnesota, coming up from the subway and seeing throngs of people walking down the streets and sitting on stoops, blasting Latin music.
Without a job, TJ had to figure things out when he got here – and did he ever! When getting a slice of pizza in the East Village one night, he overheard some advertising lingo in the conversation at the next table. He introduced himself, admitted his eavesdropping, and asked if three diners if they worked in advertising; all did, in fact, and one had even worked at Fallon in Minneapolis for 8 years before he did! This weird whim/rude interruption and lucky Minnesota connection won him an interview a few weeks later and turned out to be his big break in New York. He’s been working as an ad producer at Droga5 for the past 6 months, after a brief stint bussing tables and slinging trash at The Grey Dog’s Coffee.
TJ grew up in Falcon Heights in the shadow of the needle and water tower on the state fairgrounds. For a short time, this little city surrounded by St. Paul, Minneapolis and Roseville, changed its name to “Viking Heights” back when the Vikings played the Falcons in the NFC Championship, so you could say TJ is from Viking Heights! Home-schooled with his younger brother, the neighbor kids called them the “Home School Huffy’s” when they biked around the neighborhood. Despite is humble bike beginnings, he is now proud to tell everyone “Minneapolis is America’s best bike city.” TJ has four siblings in his tight-knit family who are all still living in the Twin Cities.
He attended a small private high school near the Mall of America, and then moved on to the U of MN for college, so he’s accustomed to forging his way from small settings to big places. While in college, TJ worked as a barista at a coffee shop and developed his passion for advertising. His other college job at Fallon prepared him well for his move to a career in advertising here in NYC.
TJ holds his Minnesota roots in high regard. In fact, when he first moved to NYC, he was invited to a potluck a fellow Minnesota ex-pat was having on the opposite side of Harlem. With no jobs and no money, TJ and his roommate rifled through the cupboards and used what they could find to cook up a tuna macaroni and cheese hotdish, which they then brought to the party. TJ says he never felt more Minnesotan, realizing the ridiculous contrast of a hot dish in Harlem. TJ gets a little homesick at times, but he makes it back for holidays and weddings, and he hopes to make it back to see the Twins in the new stadium this summer.
In addition to loving his Minnesotan roots, TJ also loves NYC and the urban living, art and culture it offers. He now lives in the Lower East Side and bikes to work. He loves getting out and exploring the city, going to live music shows, making music on rooftops with friends, biking and trying to absorb what the city has to offer. A lot of the music he goes to see is Minnesota music, including Mason Jennings, Solid Gold and this week, the Blind Shake – he worked with one of the guys at the coffee shop back in MPLS.
TJ would be a fantastic date to join on a bike ride or at an interesting concert, and not just those featuring Minnesota bands. As much as he loves his ties to MN, he is also excited to branch out and meet non-Minnesotans, try exotic foods available in NYC, and go to lots of free outdoor music shows this summer.