Walks with the Chowhound

(Photo: Serena Mira Asta/AstaArt.com)

Selby is a chowhound. An inveterate, unrelenting, willfully indiscriminate gastronome of Saint Paul street food. Naturally he is named after the street where he lives, Selby Avenue, and naturally, when I come to dog sit him, we commence our journeys from that haunt of celebrated eateries, dine-ins, and dessert stops. This poses a problem, as Selby is a beagle, a breed that distinguishes itself by a sniffer so acute it can divine a three-month-old pancake-thin squirrel carcass from a snowbank high as a Himalayan foothill...

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Five Things to Love about Saint Paul from Someone Who Moved Here from Somewhere Else

Downtown Saint Paul. (Photo: Ryan Chernik/RyanChernik.com)

John Moe is the host of Wits, a national public radio show based in Saint Paul. Noted for skimming “the cream off a few decades of local and ­national indie scenes,” the show features writers, comedians, and musicians. John has brought such guests as Fred Willard, Rosanne Cash, Martha Wainwright, and Julia Sweeney to the historic Fitzgerald Theater. A widely published author as well as a reporter, he lives in Saint Paul with his family.

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Universe on University Ave

Tou SaiKo Lee and his grandmother.

We live in an urban universe
Between street lights, stars, moons and stop signs,
from distant planets unrecognized before we met within
stories of broken barriers spoken by elder OGs of these histories...

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Back Again

St. John's Hospital, circa 1962. (Photo: Minnesota Historical Society)

I took my first breath in St. John’s Hospital at Seventh and Maria. That makes me a native Saint Paulite, even though I grew up in the suburbs. In the late 1950s and early ’60s, many suburban parents-to-be chose Saint Paul hospitals to welcome their babies into the world. As a suburban child, it was a big deal to go shopping at the downtown department stores, and each trip we took, my mom never failed to point out St. John’s at the top of the bluff. “That’s where you two were born,” Mom would remind my brother and me. Anytime my brother and I were fighting in the backseat, Mom would remind us that we’d all wind up back at St. John’s if she crashed the car because we had distracted her.

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I Remember RONDO

McKinley School circa 1911, Carroll Avenue between Arundel and Mackubin, Saint Paul. (Photo: MNHS)

I remember Rondo . . . the streets were cobbled stone.
I remember Rondo . . . 450 was our home.

I remember Rondo—the intersection Arundel Hill,
On one corner the cab station; across the street,
Joe’s Grocery Store . . .
I remember Rondo, and we never locked our door.
I remember Rondo—smiling faces still in my mind

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Ocean Floating on the Avenue

Ocean Spa Nails Salon at 1094 University Avenue (Photo: Lisa Steinmann)

I was feeling drab one Saturday afternoon in my Midway neighborhood. After a week of nine-to-six computer work in a cubicle and a morning of ticking off the weekly chores, laundry, groceries, scrubbing a few floors, and carting my teen around, what I needed was a pick-me-up. A look at my grubby nails confirmed where I knew I had to go to escape the routine of the dark days of November that were seeping into December and dragging me along.

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At the Sparkle Laundromat on Rice Street

November moon over the Tilsner Artists' Cooperative in Lowertown, Saint Paul. (Photo: Nigel Parry/nigelparry.net)

The teenagers are bored, having nowhere else to go, but not wanting to go home to the drab familiarity of housing projects and apartment complexes. We too are directionless, but directionless in the same place and time—between jobs, between loves, between ambitions; we are loitering without intent. Hank Williams echoes from a small dusty speaker, quarters tumble from the change machine, pool balls click with soft indifference.

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Open House at the Minnesota ­History Center

The bowels of the Minnesota History Center. (Photo: Minnesota Historical Society)

I have been a public employee for nearly a quarter century, in several local and state agencies, doing important yet mundane work that the public never sees. In cynical moments, I have often wondered if anything I do has enduring ­significance. Then in the autumn of 2009 my wife and I attended a special “open house” at the Minnesota History Center.

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All Aboard!

James Melvin Young Sr. riding a camel in Egypt (Photo courtesy Patricia Anita Young)

My dad James Melvin Young Sr. became a second generation “Red Cap Porter” when his uncle William A. Young retired circa 1949. Melvin was 23 years old when the Saint Paul Union Depot at 214 Fourth Street in Lowertown was the gateway to the world. Working there was the spark that ignited a love for world travel for my dad. There were approximately thirty-six Red Cap Porters employed at the Depot, all African American. Their red caps became synonymous with integrity and reliability. Their work was demanding.

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