Scanning the paper over coffee one morning, I saw this headline: 'Customer chases liquor store owner with machete.' Um, what?! Apparently, the store owner asked the customer to watch his language, and the customer reacted by pulling a machete out of his trunk. This incident happened in Providence. And while I adore Providence, I could do without machetes, thanks! My Midwest childhood didn't prepare me for that sort of thing.

In large parts of the upper Midwest, the behavioral norm is so tame-courteous, mild mannered, and polite to a fault- that it has become a stereotype. 'North Dakota Nice'. 'Minnesota Nice'. On the surface, we look like a bunch of Scandinavian and Germanic types trying to survive the bitter winters. We're not the chattiest sorts. But move to our small town and we'll bake you a pie to say hello. Get a flat and we'll pull over and help you change it. And we always wave, whether or not we know you. Always. As in scary looking biker dudes roaring through town...with a smile and a wave.

After I'd lived in Massachusetts for a few years, I asked my Dad why he didn't lock the house when he drove into town. 'Well, what if someone was in trouble and needed to get in?' He wasn't worried about someone breaking in; he was worried somebody might freeze to death because he'd locked a door. Nice.

We're importing a little Minnesota Nice this week, with some extremely nice-tasting beer from Surly Brewing Company. Minneapolis-based Surly is easily my favorite brewer, continually raising the bar on beer that was already among the best in the country. Surly isn't available in Massachusetts, but courtesy of a guest brewer program, we're getting a few cases. Ask us nicely, and we'll share.

Please leave your machete at home.