Life seen through two windows on Payne Avenue


I am a proud resident of Payne Avenue on Railroad Island in Saint Paul. I moved from New Hope, a quiet, safe, and aged western suburb settled in the 1960s by young families looking for a suburban lawn and a picket fence. I lived there for the first year of my life. It was okay.

Then we moved to Saint Paul into a new brownstone on Payne Avenue. I am definitely no longer bored. I have all the adventure I need right in front of me. I have two windows. They are both tall and handsome. One is on the main floor and overlooks Payne Avenue; the other one is on the back of the second floor, overlooking Swede Hollow Park.

First I'll tell you about life through my main floor window. I take my seat at the window after 8 a.m. in time to see G leave for work. If I am lucky, she will delay going to work and I will have another hour under the covers. The street is busy in the morning; I guess people from all over the county use Payne Avenue to go to work.

I don't mind them doing that—it gives me something to look at. The street hasn't been paved since 1933, so you can hear them long before you see them. Trucks tend to drive away from the city for some reason, and they bounce as they hit the potholes. Sometimes things fly off them and land in the street.

The fire trucks are most colorful and the tooting is exhilarating. Police cars fly by at incredible speeds; I sometimes wonder how they know that there isn't some old person or a kid crossing the street at that very moment. That could end up very exciting.

I can always tell when it is 9 a.m., because that is when Bobby comes past on his way to the local liquor store. G tells me he lives in the dry house up on Dayton's Bluff and supplies much-needed refreshment for himself and his friends. When I see him go past, I know he means business, and I let him know that doesn't scare me none.

As things calm down on Payne Avenue, I move upstairs to take my seat at my second window, overlooking Swede Hollow Park. This is an urban forest with more than twenty-two different species of trees. I actually saw one of our nerdy neighbors counting them yesterday, bless his heart—he wants more species planted. This is a different world, a world of natural wonders.

Here I am on the look out for deer, fox, rabbits, wild turkeys, squirrels, and even muskrats in the pond. I once saw a deer stuck in the muddy bottom of the pond. I told G about it and she called animal control, who came to the rescue. I spot people with dogs, couples, kids, and bums. Birds with huge wingspans like eagles and herons loop above. I bark at them all, telling them that I am taking notice.

During the Saint Paul medallion search, the scene under my window was like a movie set depicting the Middle Ages. I saw hundreds of families charging through the park with pitchforks, spades, sticks, and lanterns. They looked like a mob of Viking pillagers. Long into the freezing night, they dug and scraped in the snow, hoping against all hope to find gold. I stayed at the window rooting for them, wishing them success. Unfortunately, the medallion was hidden elsewhere.

In Saint Paul, life is a constant and daily adventure. On walks, I sniff my way past Italian and Mexican stores, dive through the Druery Tunnel into Swede Hollow Park, burst into the sunshine and the glory of twenty-eight acres of bliss. I chase the ducks in the pond and wade in the stream, lapping clean, clear spring water. I leap up the 185 steps to the top of Dayton's Bluff, panting, but oh! so happy, past great Victorian houses and yes, even white picket fences with climbing roses.

I take a shortcut past Minnesota's oldest Lutheran church with the cross I can see from my second window and then past the Swede Hollow Cafe. I love lying in the garden, while people around me sip coffee and offer me delicious crumbs of sweet rolls, muffins, and scones. Downhill past Metro State, I turn the corner for home and have not crossed a single street!

As I make my way past the brownstone neighbors, I can tell who just took a baked chicken out of the oven, who has a soup simmering on the stove or a cake being decorated. I make myself especially cute and use my best begging technique, which is lying down, pretending to be a good dog, and I almost always strike gold.

Be courageous, choose the tasty bone, and move to Payne Avenue, Saint Paul. This is a lucky dog's life.

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