On the Hiawatha Line:
Rider 1: So what do you do?
Rider 2: I'm in collections. We used to be a law firm that did some collections, but we've morphed into all collections.
Made my usual transfer from bus to train at the Metrodome station.
On Opening day for the Twins.
While waiting for the train, I strolled the Plaza on Kirby Puckett Place, and decided to buy a bag of kettle corn to bring home to make our TV viewing of the game feel a litttle more like Dome, Sweet Dome.
It's the puffy, Teflon and plastic stadium's final year as home of the Twins.
With temps in the low 40's and a stiff northwest wind blowing, most fans were probably happy to retreat indoors for one final home opener. Next year, people will need to ride a few more stops to het to Target Field. (Also, see Target Field webcams )
7:20 a.m., on the 50, between the Metrodome and the U:
Woman 1 [looking up under the 35W overpass]: There's our homeless person. I don't know how they can sleep there.
Woman 2: Yeah--
Woman 1: Sleep on that cold concrete. Someone ought to do a story about that.
Woman 2: Yep.
Woman 1: If I ever win the lottery, that'll end.
Woman 2: That's inspiring.
Woman 1: They need jobs, a lot of them have medical issues. I mean, they try to go into McDonalds to get warm, but they just kick 'em out. One poor guy locked himself in the bathroom, he was so cold and tired. He had new clothes--someone had done that. If they have money to buy something, they'll let 'em stay, but if not.... When I used to work downtown, I'd buy two Egg McMuffins and coffees at the McDonalds that was there--back when that was just a couple bucks--and give one away.
Two young professionals (YPs) chatting on the Hiwatha line, 5 pm:
YP1: I'll probably put half my tax return in the Wall Street casino
YP2: I've never bought stock. My grandparents did--
YP1: For Christmas?
YP1: There you go.
YP2: You have to wear that tie?
YP1: Tie or a jacket.
YP2: Fridays too?
YP1: Nah. Good thing--only have one.
YP1: Josh was so trashed Friday night.
YP2: [laughs] Yeah.
YP1: I've seen him wasted before, but he couldn't even keep track of his bets.
YP1: Later. [exits, Lake Street station]
As I sat down on the 3, a man behind me was telling the woman next to him this tale:
...he watched her breathe her last, then left her in her chair and went out and around to the front porch where everyone else was.
He sat down, didn't say a thing for 15 minutes. Finally Dianna looked at him and said "What? What's wrong with you?" He just started to cry. They all looked at him. Finally he got up and led them around to the back of the house.
Then I couldn't hear any more.
As I boarded the Hiawatha line yesterday morning, heading to the U, I took up my usual standing room position near the rear door of the second car a for quick exit to my bus connection at the Metrodome station.
Standing next to me, however, was a woman holding a large cardboard tray of doughnuts--at least three dozen. The aroma was miserably tempting, especially since I'd dashed out without breakfast.
My usual three-stop ride was interminable.
There I was, go-mug of coffee in hand, and doughnuts within sight and smell, but infinitely out of reach: Tantalus redux.
As we pulled up to the Staypuffed Marshmallow Dome, another woman, also exiting the train, teasingly offered the doughnut bearer: "Need help carrying those?"
Chuckling, I wondered why I hadn't thought of being so charitable. Too busy drooling.
A guy boards the bus near a liquor store. Clothes rumpled, hair uncombed. He takes a seat, across from me, looks around, apparently assessing his captive audience, then begins in a Loud Voice.
Loud Talker [to no one in particular]: I s'pose all you college youngsters are studying for your midterms.
Loud Talker: College is fun. I partied non-stop untill my junior year.
Loud Talker: High school was easy. I never had to study until my junior. year.
[no response--driver assists passenger in a wheelchair, unlocking the safety straps.]
Loud Talker: There's a fine gentleman, helping others out. That's what a gentleman does.
Driver: Next stop 13th.
[Loud Talker pulls cord, exits in silence. Narry a gentleman to help him out]
Gothic Guy gets on the train at Franklin, 7:20 am. Full Gothic regalia: black everything, big ol' boots, chains, studs, eye-shadow, at least half a bottle of cheap cologne.
Now that's freaky.
(I had encountered Gothic Guy on the train once before--when he boarded with several other people--and I now remembered the smell. He had been low on my suspect list then. But now, it was clear that the offending aroma entered the train with him.)
Cologne? Enough of it to make me instantly and fully sympathetic to anyone with elevated olfactory sensitivity. It almost knocked me over; it was nauseating; it was a wall of pointed, stinging assault on my nose, throat and eyes. Maybe that's the point. Visually, the Gothic look is old hat, co-opted and commercialized. It's lost its shock value, so go for the nose instead of the eyes.
I was only too glad to let him get off ahead of me and dash to catch a bus, chains and things clanking. I happily waited for the next one, taking what Lamaze coaches call "deep cleansing breaths" of downtown air. It took a lot of air to clear the system. Maybe this is what Teen 2 meantbelow. Maybe she was kissing Gothic Guy.
Very crowded train at Metrodome East--just one car at 4:59 pm.
Group of teenagers talking much louder than necessary.
Teen 2: When I kiss you my nose smells weird.
Teen 1: Say what?
Teen 2: My nose. When I kiss you it smells weird.
Teen 1: That's wack.
[very brief pasue]
Teen 3: Nobody ever does that wall.
Teen 1: What wall?
Teen 3 That one. No one ever does that.
Teen 1: Yeah they do.
Teen 3: It's clean....
Teen 1: Joe, you peep the new stuff up here?"
Joe's girlfriend, AKA Teen 2: "Dude, that's so wack."
[very brief pause]
Teen 1: Is it gonna be this crowded all the way to the Mall?
Me [exiting, not quite loud enough]: That's wack. All these people who look like 9-to-5 types commuting home from downtown are really mall rats in disguise.
As promised, here's a picture of the great Alaskan train
And here's what it looks like from inside one of their Dome cars.
We went to a conference in Anchorage 10 days ago. While there, we rode the Alaska Railroad from Denali National Park back to Anchorage.
Rail fans get very enthused about the Alaska Railroad. It's a private corporation, a profitable one (it should be, given the fares), and so it's also often held up by privatizers as an example of what Amtrak might become.
That's not a fair analogy of course. The Alsaka Railroad is in a unique situation, in terms of intense tourist traffic, few roads, and what amounts to de facto subsidies by the tourist industry. Cars and highways have benefitted from massive government subsidies--rail shouldn't be expected to do without government support.
Anyway, we took one of the full-length dome cars in order to experience panoramic views--of course it was overcast and rainy, but still spectacular. Pictures at 11 (or so).
I finally cancelled my Metropass today, six weeks later than I had once thought I would. The rain and cold have faded convincingly enough.
Actually, I've been anticipating this for even longer.
I'll be biking through the summer, except for when it rains hard, or feels like Christmas in July. Exercise, fresh air, low-cost, and atmosphere-friendly.
But I'll miss the train, the pulse of conversation, the jostling, the brief bursts of mobile community--and especially game days at the Metrodome East stop.
As I stepped off the bus, in the light rain, at the Metrodome East station on my way home two nights ago, I heard the sounds of a saxophone. There across the street was a busker, wearing his Twins cap, and riffing on "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." Fans on their way to the rain-protected game smiled. Some tossed coins and bills into his case. As a train pulled up, its rhythms and chimes added a counterpoint to the sax-man's music.
His playing earned him some money. But in addition to the green stuff, he was also creating social capital, creating interactions between erstwhile strangers, and maybe some understandings among otherwise anonymous people. I found myself feeling particularly glad that he wasn't chased off, by either the drizzle or the police.
And as I listened to him express himself in a public space, for any to hear who happened past, I found myself thinking that busking can be like blogging in the idealized sense of both activities: creating connections.
Of course, anything from poor musicianship to irresponsible or vitriolic blog-posting can destroy social capital, rather than create it. But here was a confluence of positive forces for cultural capital: Mass transit, grassroots music, and the home team to root-root-root for.
This time I think spring is really here (he says, knocking on wood, or the nearest facsimile thereof). When I got on the 50 last night, all of the windows were open. And an English bulldog in a car in the next lane was soaking up the warm air with its over-sized underbite happily jutting out the wide-open window.
And then, I arrived at the HHH Dome as Twins fans arrived. But in a change from recent weeks, they weren't rushing out of the rain and chill right into the old Teflon and plastic balloon, but actually lingering at the plaza activities outside.
The long stretch of cold, wet weather we've just been through makes me wonder about the sanity of a roofless stadium in these climes. Do the Twins really want a new stadium with no roof? Springtime in Minnesota (heck, even fall and summer) can be quite the roller-coaster ride. Once the novelty has worn off, will fans still come out the ballpark in a cold drizzle, or when it's 95 degrees with 95% humidity?
As I boarded the LRT at the Metrodome station, an incongruously loud cell phone conversation began:
"Jim? Jerry." (Pause.) "We settled." (Pause.) "Five and a quarter;
workers comp., one point five." (Long pause.) "Let me look at the settlement sheet. We just finished 10 minutes ago." (Longer pause.) "The other deadline? That would make a July trial." (Pause.) "I've got to catch a plane in 40 minutes. I'm on the train right now. See ya tomorrow"
I know that the conversation wasn't about these' guys' situation. But it could have been.
And the lawyer's travelin' wasn't quite so hard.
Young Guy ln Black (one arm around woman in black, cell phone in other hand): "Shelley's here, Mom. She wants to talk to you." Hands phone to Shelley, the woman in black.
Shelley: "Since we're kinda poor right now we thought we'd come visit you for Mother's Day." They talk some more.
Shelley : "OK." Hands the phone back to the Young Guy ln Black.
Young Guy ln Black (looking at Shelley, smiling): "Yeah, mom, she is."
He listens a while.
Young Guy ln Black, abruptly: "Lindsay lost the baby today."
I failed to hear anything more he said.
I get in the Franklin Ave. Station elevator, to go up to the platform. Three other people crowd in.
There's an announcement over the elevator's loudspeaker:-"Trains are delayed 2 to 5 minutes."
One of the other elevator riders, a youngish man wearing ear phones, asks loudly (half-lifting his blasting earphones) "Who's talking?"
Me: "An announcement--trains are late 2 to 5 minutes."
Earphone Guy, scowling: "As much money as taxayers paid for this...."
We exit the elevator, and he kicks open the exterior door to leave elevator building.
Earphone Guy: "They raise the fucking rates, I'll never ride again." Storms ahead to the platform, where a train is arriving.
Boarding at the Metrodome Station to go home, I stepped lnto the middle of a serious conversation about inadequate health insurance, medical bllls, workers' comp., lawsuits, and communlty service hours. I couldn't catch it all, but it didn't sound fun.
As we pull up to the Franklin Ave. station, in sight of Whiskey Junction, The Joint, and the Cabooze, one of the conversants says: "I wish we could get off here for a beer."
"Yeah that'd be nlce."
"Problem is, I wouldn't stop at one."
'Yeah especially if I have liquor--you know, Jack Daniels. You wanna keep that warm feeling but it doesn't work. You'll have that struggle for long time."
They pause for half a minute. They resume talk of medical problems, x-rays, and unpaid bills as I get off at Lake St.
Cue Woody Guthrie: "I've been havin' some hard travelin', Lord."
The East African woman in traditional dress, stepping off the 21, sports a LeBron James backpack, 23.
Accessories really do make the statement.
The blind man with the cane was noodling around on a harmonica as I walked up to my bus stop earlier than usual this morning. I've chatted with him in the past, and so know that he's something of a folk musician--once he told me about playing his electric dulcimer (no kidding) at the Poodle Club (again).
The bus arrived before I could say hello--he immediately struck up a conversation with the driver before I even sat down. Turns out he's been playing the harp for just a couple of weeks. (I've been playing off and on 20+ years since my senior-year roommate in college taught me the basics). He and this driver had clearly talked music before.
Electric Dulcimer Guy: I'm working on some tunes with a bluegrass band. Trying to play the fiddle part on a harp.
Driver: What kind of harp?
Electric Dulcimer Guy: A Melody Maker. It's great for playing in minor keys because the Dorian mode is really easy on it.
Driver: Yeah, that 'll work, but what you really want is the Aeolian mode.
Electric Dulcimer Guy: I suppose, but Dorian works great for the songs we're doing.
Driver: You got a bunch of harps? Make sure you grab the right one. Otherwise you've got polytonal bluegrass.
Electric Dulcimer Guy: (laughing) Close enough for bluegrass.
Driver: Clsoe enough for rock-n-roll. Close enough for the girls I go out with.
Me: (walking past, having just pulled the cord for my stop). Just call it jazz.
On the 53, the express version of the 21 that has been running on Lake St. for 10 months now, the drivers still frequently remind riders that stops are less frequent.
Yesterday, approaching the Minnehaha stop, the driver announced: "Next stop, 36th Ave. No stops until 36th Ave." He said this slowly and loudly, with a practiced cadence.
Not ten second later, at about 29th Ave., a woman at the front of the bus asks: "Can you stop at the next corner? It's an emergency."
Driver: "They tell me only to stop at designated stops." Something in his tone says that he saw this coming, and has had this conversation, with the same woman, before.
Woman At The Front Of The Bus: "I need to see my mother this is an emergency why don't you tell people when they get on what the stops are? I need to see my mother and you're going to make me walk back and if I fall and break my leg it's your fault why don't you tell people when they get on what the stops are?
Me: (Pull the cord for the 36th st. stop, exit via back door).
Woman At The Front Of The Bus: (exits via front door) Now I have to walk back why don't you tell people when they get on what the stops are? (incoherent shouting).
Since I get off the LRT right at the Metrodome, and since I'm a baseball fan (although with a greater and greater sense of guilt, given the obscene salaries and steroid-enhanced play) I thought I'd grab Breakfast at the Plaza--the occasional Twins give-away--today in honor of the home opener.
But the line for a doughnut and coffee was stupidly long. It didn't give me hope that they'll have their act together for the free rides home from the game tomorrow night.
Speaking of the Metrodome, Shane at Greet Machine is expressing some optimism about a possible Twins stadium. I'm one of those baseball fans who doesn't think a public dime should be spent on a pro stadium. But my heart does go all pitter-pat when I think of taking my kids to a Twins game at an outdoor park actually designed for baseball. Less so for a St. Paul site, in part because Minneapolis will soon have the Northstar commuter line as well as the Hiawatha LRT for fans to ride--just like they do in Boston and New York.
As for the Vikings: I'm just not much of a footbal fan, and will say again that the franchise deserves its plastic and teflon home as purgatory for all of those lost Super Bowls.
Through the open windows of the 16, I heard The Accordion Guy busking outside the Village Wok.
Rock and roll.
Seen from a bus on Washington Ave.:
A Hummer with Minnesota's special "Critical Habitat" license plate.
A group of three teens were playing an exuberant little game on the LRT a couple of days ago. As the Cedar-Riverside stop approached, one of them said "Yeah, let's go back to the other train." They ran out the door. I assumed by "other train," they meant the northbound.
But they meant the other car on this train, because at the Frankilin Station, they bustled back into our car, laughing and shouting.
As I exited at Lake Street, they again raced out and headed up to the front car.
It was the old stop light fire drill adapted to the train.
So the other day, I (a white guy) and a woman (a white woman) dashed up to the bus stop after getting off the train at Lake St.--only to have the driver of the 53--the Lake St. express--pull off without us.
But not to worry--a 21 was pulling in right behind it. We boarded the fairly crowded 21.
Apparently, since we had shared the experience of just missing the 53, she felt OK sitting down next to me.
Me: "Good thing the 21 was right behind."
She: "I prefer the 53."
Me: "Yeah the 21 will probably stop at every corner between here and the river. How far are you going?"
She: "Just to Cretin Avenue. But there's not as many...colorful people on the 53."
Me: Stunned silence (looking around at all the non-white folks on the 21, and thinking, "Did she really just say that?"). I pull the cord for my stop, pleased to extend her uncomfortable ride on the "colorful" 21. Exit stage right, still non-plussed.
My daughter and I spent the better part of an hour Saturday morning picking up litter around the bus shelter on the north side of Lake by the Hiawatha station. As I said earlier, she didn't want to wait until Earth Day.
The area was quite a pit. We brought gloves and gabage bags, but not a rake for the hundreds of cigarette butts and tiny scraps of litter.
So we got the big stuff, including quite a few booze bottles (there's a liquor stoe adjacent), and planned to return in a week or two with the proper tools to finish the job.
My daughter asked "Why do people use the world as their litter can?"
After we discussed that one a while, I asked her: if she were an anthropologist, and had to make a hypothesis about the what the people who left all this garbage seemed to value, she said "liquor and cigarettes."
Here's a shot before:
More pictures if you click "continue reading."
This morning, as I boarded a 24 to catch the LRT, I walked through the following piece of a cross-aisle conversation:
"Geez, Bob, if my mother-in-law was sick, I'd fly out to visit her. No wonder your wife doesn't like you."
Nothing like a bus-buddy to tell it to you straight.
So, as I, my wife and kids were walking out of a car-themed thrill ride at a certain global conglomerate theme park (think big rodent ears) earlier this week, we were routed past a bunch of GM vehicles, since GM was the sponsor of the ride.
Prominently displayed, of course, was a Hummer. I thought I'd check the gas milage rating. It was blank, even though the other 7 or 8 vehicles all had their MPG rating listed (most were in the abyssmally low 18/City, 24/ highway range). They were happy to list the Hummer's price of $52,000 (only 1K per week, annualized!), but apparently figured the MPG numbers were too shocking to list. How low could they be?
Yesterday I had to wait 5-10 minutes or more at all three of my stops.
It took 40 minutes to get home.
Yesterday, it all worked perfectly:
A thirty-second wait at Northrop Mall for a 50;
A train pulling up just as I step onto the Metrodome platform;
A 53 at Hiawatha and Lake, seemingly waiting for me to turn the corner and board.
Virtually no waiting at stops. No running to stops.
I was home in less than 25 minutes.
Other days, it can take 40.
Either one of those splits the difference of my other options: 15 minutes on a bike, 55 minutes on foot.
Scene: A small coffeehouse near campus
Time: Lunch hour
Cell Phone Guy: I don't have enough money for the bus. Could you pick me up? I've only got a dollar in my wallet, and I should have checked before putting the change in the tip jar.
Cell Phone Interlocutor: [mmnbmnbmbnm.]
Cell Phone Guy: I've got two more appointments at one.
Cell Phone Interlocutor: [mmnbmnbmbnm.]
Cell Phone Guy: As soon as I get my tax refund, I'm gonna buy a car from my cousin.
Cell Phone Interlocutor: [mmnbmnbmbnm.]
Cell Phone Guy: I'm getting 1500 dollars.
Cell Phone Interlocutor: [mmnbmnbmbnm.]
Cell Phone Guy: She's selling it for 800 dollars. A Ford Escort.
Me (silently): Don't do it! That's a money pit on wheels! Save your change and ride the bus. With a little planning (like not having so much of your income withheld) you'll be able to tip your barrista AND ride the bus--and still come out ahead. mmnbmnbmbnmmmnbmnbmbnmmmnbmnbmbnm.
At least, that's what it felt like when, at the Cedar-Riverside stop, two transit police boarded, escorting two young men with hands cuffed behind their backs.
This was a bit jarring--usually the transit cops escort people (non-fare-paying people) OFF of the train accompanied by either a warning or a $180 citation.
I'm guessing the captives had been doing something more serious than sneaking an unpaid ride on the southbound. Repeat freeloaders? Vandalism? Drug trafficking? (yes, pun intended).
Some riders were clearly uncomfortable at having a bust intrude into their morning commute--does Metro Transit want riders to be uncomfortable?
The obvious question was, "Why use the LRT to transport them downtown, if not for a bit of public humiliation, a bit of PR ("Look, upstanding and fare-paying riders--we do our job"), and a bit of example-making ("Pay your fares, any non-paying riders, or risk sliding into degeneracy such as this")? This little spectacle sent all of those messages, and probably others.
But I soon realized the answer to "why?" might be less calculated (not to say those other reasons weren't also at work). The train would take the foursome right where they would need to go: they got off where I did, at the Metrodome station, but started a perp walk over toward the conveniently-located Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center. Why call for a Transit Police squad car when the train stops right at the Little Big House?
The Japanese must have a term for the guy who shoves the last few pasengers onto the train. Anybody know what it is?
We needed that guy yesterday. I headed for home at about 4:45 pm, and it was Sardine City--so much so that a bunch of people chose to wait for the next train rather than enter the madness to become a salted fish.
It was one of those single car trains running in the middle of rush hour. I understand that the Met Council has three more cars on order from Bombardier. Three cheers from this sardine!
So this morning, just as we roll past the Metrodome and I'm about to disembark, the conductor makes the following announcement on the intercom.
"Sorry we were a bit late this morning folks, but it wasn't our fault. It seems a drunk driver decided to drive down our tracks, and it delayed all trains for several minutes."
Apparently, there was no collision, or we would have been delayed much longer.
I assume this excellent adventure took place somewhere downtown, where the tracks are embedded into the middle of 5th St., rather than, say. on the Hiawatha Ave. overpass, or in the tunnel under the airport....
A fellow passenger voiced a different question: "Drunk at 7 am?" I stepped off the train before I could hear all the responses.
Soon after running to board the train at the Metrodome platform yesterday afternoon, the conductor made an announcement explaining why I needn't have exerted myself:
"Once again folks, there's a train broke down at the Cedar Riverside station, and they hope to have it cleared soon."
I looked at the clock on the old City Hall: 4:25. I considered disembarking as several others were doing, catching a bus back to the West Bank, and then 2 different buses home. That would take 45 minutes for sure, and while the length of this delay was unknown, it couldn't be too long. Cedar-Riverside is the closest stop to the LRT yards and garage. Besides, I wanted to see how the LRT folks responded, as well as the passengers.
After five minutes, the conductor came back on the PA: ""Sounds like they've got another train about ready to couple and pull the stalled one to the yard."
As a group of people ran up to the train doors from a 50 bus (as I had done 10 minutes before), rushing to catch a train that they thought was about to pull out, someone cheered ironically "Hey, you made it!"
Ten more minutes went by.
...then a train whistle blew, and another southbound train pulled up beside us, on what's ordinarily the northbound track. It was completely packed, as people had clearly been piling into it at the Goverenment Center or Nicollet Mall stop while it was held up behind us.
I exchanged jokes with the guy next to me about having a Light Rail drag race, adding that if I was on that train, I'd sure be hoping the LRT folks get their switching right.
A few minutes later, the other train started up, headed south. There were some good-natured sighs of disappointment from people on our train. But in less than a minute, we lurched forward and quickly caught up, although we can't have been going more than 10 mph. We had ourselves a drag race after all, in slow motion. It was a race we all wanted to win, not for winning's sake, but just because we were later than we should have been. So when the other train stopped and we "surged" into the lead, some cheers broke out.
Soon after we arrived at the Cedar-Riverside station, the other train pulled up across the platform. There was an announcement telling folks on the platform that both trains were southbound, and that a northbound train would arrive soon. Apparently the southbound train on the northbound track was going to switch over to our track at the switch-point between Cedar-Riverside and Franklin.
I soon found myself hoping, very seriously this time, that whoever was in charge of this juggling act got the switching right, because soon after we pulled away from the Franklin Station, a northbound train zipped past us.
Clearly, everything went fine, and by sending two trains south in parallel for a ways (maybe this happened further downtown as well, though I doubt it, given the traffic signal complications there), the system administrator minimized the delay and disruption. 25 minutes, total, according to people who were aboard for the whole episode.
Twentysomething Woman #1: "Yeah, I'm going to see a cheerleading competition this weekend. I haven't been in--I don't know how long."
Twentysomething Woman #2: "Oh, me either."
Twentysomething Woman #1: "It'll feel so weird to watch."
Twentysomething Woman #2: "Totally."
Twentysomething Woman #1: "But you know, I love movies like "Bring It On."
Twentysomething Woman #2: "Oh. me too. Totally"
Twentysomething Woman #1: (giggles) "Sometimes my boyfriend asks me to do a cheer."
Twentysomething Woman #2: (silence) "Really?"
Twentysomething Woman #1: (silence) "But I don't remember any of our cheers."
Twentysomething Woman #2: "Me either."
Cue Paul Simon: "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all...."
My brother, sister-in-law and their kids came up from Iowa for the weekend, in part to see the Holidazzle parade (or as my daughter calls it for fun, the Dolly Hazzle). Four kids, bundled to the point of near-immobility. It reminded me of an old Peanuts strip, where Charlie Brown slips on a patch of ice, landing flat on his back, only to find himself immobilized by his several layers of clothes.
So we took the LRT downtown on Saturday evening, bundled to the teeth against the sub-zero winds. It was slick to get off at the Nicollet Mall stop and be at the parade site with no traffic or parking hassles.
Lots of people were heading to the parade, so it was standing room on the train. We had been hoping to get a skyway viewing position, but the skyways were crammed an hour ahead of time. So, after grabbing hot chocolate and coffee to pass the time, we stood outside as the parade began.
The winds were steady at what must have been 20 mph, whipping straight down the glass and steel canyon of Nicollet Mall from the north. This meant the parade participants were walking/riding directly into it. I assumed they had Vaseline smeared on their faces. How the trumpeters and other members of the Minneapolis Police Band managed to play is beyond me.
Many of the spectators acknowledged defeat before Santa's float came down: with about 10 minutes of the parade remaining, the wind picked up to what must have been 30 mph. The street emptied in no time.
We waited inside the lobby of the Dorsey and Whitney building (thanks to the lawyers for opening their doors), to let the first wave of riders board the train. After a few minutes, we headed for the platform. It was still crowded, but kudos to MTC for sending extra trains, so that they were basically cued up to take frozen parade-watchers homeward. We were only too happy to huddle side-by side in the warm car. That was some serious holiday cheer.
[4:50 pm. As the westbound 2 emerges from under the U of M skyway on Washington Avenue....]
Young Woman in Back of Bus: "Wow!" (leans over, gazes intently out the south-facing window behind me.)
Me (seated on the north-facing arm of the 'horseshoe seats' at the back of the bus--turning to look over my shoulder): "That's quite a sunset" (or something similarly inadequate).
Young Woman in Back of Bus (gazing at what I now notice: a brilliant, orange-pink cloud mass; one of those formations that looks quilted on the bottom. The setting sun has full access to the underbelly of these clouds, because the trailing side of a front has cut them off in a straight line running from southwest to northeast, just behind the downtown skyline): "That's beautiful."
Me: "The sunrises have been beautiful too. I wish I had a camera phone right now " (I don't wish this at all, but it seems an appropriate thing to say--though why I said "camera phone" instead of camera is something I don't understand)
Young Woman in Back of Bus (slides over along the back bench toward my side, smiling widely and staring at the scene. The bus turns south on Cedar, so that we now see the burning clouds through the big screen windows on the side across from me. The colors have intensified, and I can see that they are pushing quickly to the southeast, the pillowy textures pulsing with movement and red-spectrum light). "Yeah, I should have a camera."
(The bus turns back to the east, one of the many zigs on the zig-zag 2 route. Even as I'm losing sight of the clouds, I think of the reports [rumors?] I've heard that sunsets are more and more stunning due to particulates in the atmosphere. I'm soon thinking about Don DeLillo's novel White Noise, where, in an ironic apocalypse of an ending, the residents of a college town find themselves making pilgrimages out to a freeway overpass to view the spectacular sunsets that have become regular occurences since a cloud of toxic gas was released nearby....)
The other day I was going home on the 16, when I saw him standing on the side of the Cedar Avenue off-ramp (westbound on Washington Ave.), holding one of those handwritten cardboard signs. It read "Anything will help. God bless."
I was sitting with five pieces of pizza in a box on my lap, leftover from a departmental lunch event the day before. That was something. Anything. This guy would seem to need it more than I did--assuming he was on the level. I didn't necessarily assume this, as I don't assume it any time a stranger hits me up for spare change.
But I decided I'd give this guy the pizza. He couldn't buy a bottle of wine with it, if that's what he wanted money for. But if he was truly desperate enough to be begging, he could eat his fill.
So I got off the bus one stop later (I missed the Cedar stop while thinking these things), crossed the street and caught an eastbound 16 back to Cedar.
I walked up behind him, saying:
"Excuse me--want some pizza?" I held out the cardboard box.
He turned. Jeans, untucked flannel shirt, thin beard and unkempt dirty-blonde hair. Could be me on a Saturday, or even some work days. I was aware that I was signifying upper-middle class by my long wool dress coat (the label inside says "Saks Fifth Avenue," although I had picked it up for two dollars at a rummage sale--neither of those contradictory facts were visible, of course).
He turned and looked at me. He had been focused on the cars. Then, quickly, he said, "No, I couldn't. Really. Can't do that."
"OK," I said, and walked back to catch another bus. I wasn't so much surprised to be turned down as I was surprised by the way he declined. "Couldn't do that?" "Can't?" Was he bound by some corporate policy, or panhandler's code of ethics? Maybe I had surprised him, and it was his surprise talking.
But clearly, "anything" didn't include food.
(He and She board the LRT at the Lake St. Station, 7:35 am. He grabs a metal handhold next to Me; She links her arm through his.)
She: "I'm thinking of strapless black dresses for the bridesmaids, something they could wear again to a party. What do you think?"
He: (leans over and kisses her.)
She: "My shoes are all wrong though."
He: (leans over and kisses her.)
She: "And the invitations, sort of like the ones like Julie and Martin had. Does that seem right?"
He: (leans over and kisses her.)
Me: (turn away).
Are they typical, or will theirs be one of those relationships that founders on the jagged rocks of wedding planning? Discuss.
Last night, after I got off the outbound train at Lake St, a particularly harried woman hurried up to the train.
Confused (drunk?) Man (slurs this out from behind her): "So how do I get downtown?"
Harried Woman (presses button to open train door.): "I don't know" (disappears into the crowded car).
Confused (drunk?) Man: (looks around, boards).
(outbound train pulls out, away from downtown).
"Say you stand by your man,
Tell me something, I don't understand....
Did you stand by me?
No not at all.
Did you stand by me?