The Day Marvin Gaye Died

Emmanuel Ortiz performing spoken word at a January 2013 Lowertown Reading Jam. (Illustration: Ta-coumba Aiken/Ta-coumbaAiken.com)

Every generation has its historical moments Of collective grief and disbelief Moments we forever remember Exactly where we were when . . . The deaths of Kennedy, King, Clemente The space shuttle Challenger explosion When the planes hit the towers on 9/11 Some of these things I was around for Some I was not. But […]

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Calling Gadahlski

(Original Almanac illustration: William Birawer/WilliamBirawer.com)

Gadahlski refers to the garage door of the house I grew up in. The house was a modern rambler sitting on a hill in the pristine, well-educated community of St. Anthony Park. My parents, my sister, and I did whatever we could to fit into the mold of “the Park.” The house expressed this desire for perfection with its regularly mowed lawn, clipped hedges, and fresh paint. Even the flower and vegetable gardens were neat and orderly.

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True Myth

(Photo: Bob Muschewske/370SummitStPaul.com)

Tell a child she is composed of parts

(her Ojibway quarters, her German half-heart)

she’ll find the existence of harpies easy

to swallow. Storybook children never come close

to her mix, but manticores make great uncles...

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The Power of Education

James Dee and Rosemarie Cook. (Photo courtesy Patricia Anita Young)

Relax. Think. Who was your favorite teacher? Hold that thought. James Dee Cook doesn’t recall the male teacher’s name but confirms that his third grade teacher was a major force throughout his lifetime. James was born and raised in the Rice neighborhood at the height of the Great Depression and rode the bus to elementary school. Math was James’s art. Like a human calculator, he doodled numbers in his right brain as he played in his sandbox.

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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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Purgatory, or Riding the Bus Home from School

(Original illustration: Leann E. Johnson/www.lea-way.com)

There is no seat you want to sit in, no place
that you belong, so you choose one near
the middle, closer to the back than the front,
one with a kid in it, wearing a faded jean jacket
and striped watch cap. A skinny kid who stares
at his hands, lying in his lap. His fingers are slender,
stunning—and you are ashamed that you notice.

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Work Avoidance

Rurik's Halloween Party 2009. (Photo: Nigel Parry/nigelparry.com)

I would like to propose
the following techniques
as viable displays
when encountering the suckitude
of work
as developed and employed
by my son Dylan,
the demonstrative kindergartener...

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The Telepathic Monkeys at Como Golf Course

Three monkeys in the zoo. (Photo: Sascha Grant/ibuildrockets.com)

In 1989 on the first tee at the newly reopened Como Park golf course, after watching my grandfather’s drive slice across two fairways and bank off a tree, I learned that golf is as much educational as it is recreational. “Grandpa, you missed,” I said, playfully jabbing at my hero. “Yeah, but that’s alright,” he replied with a smile. “Hitting a tree is good luck for your next shot.” “Oh!” I gleefully said, while altering my aim for a majestic birch 100 yards away. “Wait,” my grandfather said while he corrected my stance. “It doesn’t work if you try to hit it. It’s like a lucky penny. You can’t put it down and then pick it up.” This made perfect sense to my eight-year-old brain.

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The Game

(illustration: Andy Singer)

The kid loved basketball. He never had a basketball to speak of, but the school had plenty. The kid had a favorite. It was old, smooth, and had the feel of rough paper. It bounced as high as any of the new ones. The kid felt alive when it bounced back perfectly. The kid knew the concrete playing field—all the broken spaces and the cracking cover of the court. The kid knew how to angle and fly by the arms and legs of others. All for that beautiful sound: swoosh.

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