Things We Love
As a forbidden summer activity, we enjoyed swimming at the Ford Bridge over the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
Saint Paul is my chosen home, the place where I feel most deeply that I belong. Now. It has not always been so.
Our Lady of Guadalupe,
leaning in the mercado window,
make intercession for the West Side.
Mystical rose of yellow, red, and blue,
protect those who journey through
the corners of George, State, and Chavez streets —
New Tepeyac, District del Sol.
Wildlife thrives in Saint Paul.
This morning, I roused two Red Tailed Hawks feeding on Mouse in my backyard. They flew off over our neighborhood community garden and disappeared beyond the rooftops.
I know this sounds ridiculous: to love the speed by which one can get across town. Big deal, right? Yes. It is. You have no idea. Prior to moving to Saint Paul in 2008, I lived in Seattle, a city with an enormous and ever-worsening traffic problem.
It was my mom’s first marriage proposal. At eight, she was the older woman. George was only six. After hasty consideration, Mom turned him down. As she explained to her mother, she couldn’t marry George. He liked carrots. She didn’t.
New York? It’s nothing.
Saint Paul is more stunning.
No other city can compete.
I always like to think about the fun one could have around the late 1960s. We could dance the night away. The clubs you could go to if you wanted to dress up or dress down.
Even though it seems like the economy has gone through the wrong tunnel, we as a community have to keep going through the right tunnel. We come together as one, to a place where everyone can pitch in and get something in return.
You’re not alone with your sleeplessness. The lion is roaring. There’s a peacock, too, though you didn’t recognize its call until Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom went to India. You’re not alone because a distant siren cues the timber wolves, all of them except the shy ebony outsider, the only one who doesn’t fight over the salami your brother tosses into the Wolf Woods.
“IN THE MIDDLE of all the chaos of life, a massage,” smiles Andrea Sullivan. She is a practitioner of Shiatsu Anma, Chinese Abdominal Detox Massage (Chi Nei Tsang), Thai Yoga Massage, and Taoist Medical Qi Gong and meditation, and to watch Andrea giving a massage in the moiling farmers’ market is becalming.
Whether you’re new to Saint Paul, a longtime resident, or simply a visitor, here’s . . . The Saint Paul Art Tour You Weren't Expecting First, let’s take the word “art” and think beyond the museum or gallery wall. (Minneapolis has plenty of both.) How would you...
My boys viewed their mid-1980s births
in the old Midway Hospital on University
between Porky’s and Ax-Man
as an embarrassment, a slight
their Saint Paul mom had designed to punish them
by withholding the polished corridors
of HCMC in their own hometown…
Early in the morning on June 21, 2007, my son Cullen encountered a rowing scull, crewed by five young women in the Saint Paul Harbor and pinned by a heavy current of the Mississippi River. This crew team had misjudged the current and was trapped against the Padelford wharf barge.
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…
Outside Merriam Park Library, a rusty black
bike shares a lock with another well-worn bike
stowed in the metal rack. Both nose
their front wheels into the stanchion like
When I was eight years old and living in Pennsylvania, my father took a new job in Minnesota at the Saint Paul Foundry. He and my mother had immigrated to America from Scotland and always spoke lovingly of their hometown of Edinburgh, but work opportunities were better in America.
The railroad caboose was our warming house. Pete didn’t open it until ten, but that didn’t stop us. With our blades and sticks over our shoulders, ear bras on our heads, choppers on our hands, we would change in the snow banks and the Stanley Cup finals began.
O’Shea Irish Dance is my Irish dance school. It is part of the Celtic Junction building. O’Shea teaches Irish dance for kindergarteners to adults. The dance company moved to the Celtic Junction two years ago. It has three studios. O’Shea participates in the St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the Landmark Center, the Irish Fair at Harriet Island in August, and Minnesota feishes (dance contests). They also go to the championships.
My dad, William LaMont Kaufman, was superintendent of Saint Paul Parks for thirty-four years. He dearly loved his job, and because he did, approximately one-third of our childhood was spent in his beloved parks. Como, our favorite, offered so much to children as well as to adults. Our dad taught us the name of each plant in the conservatory and the outside gardens, not only in English but also in Latin. Many Sunday nights were Como Nights, when we sometimes brought a picnic and raced to find Dad’s name on plaques in the zoo and conservatory. But his love for Como extended to other parks: Harriet Island, Phalen, Highland, and his smaller treasures—Hidden Falls, Rice, Irvine, Kellogg, Lilydale, Indian Mounds, Mears, and Newell, among others.
We were halfway around Como Lake when I heard it—the long mournful three-tone whistle-cry that grew in volume. I stopped. What is that? What is that? I know that sound. But it was utterly out of context, and I had to think to place it. The bird called again. I stopped Doug and made him take out his earbuds. (He was listening to American Music Club on his iPod.) Doug, I hear a loon!
Grabbing the ballet barre to support myself, I attempted to stretch out my right leg. My thigh felt like a vise was twisting it tighter and tighter. The pain was so intense, I was afraid to breathe. I hobbled out of the dance room and nearly collapsed on the hallway floor. Massaging my cramped leg, I watched those energetic adults and wondered how I, a forty-seven-year-old Black woman with no dance experience, ended up in an Irish dance class.
I have lived in Saint Paul most of my life, and I’d say my favorite place in Saint Paul is the St. Anthony Park Public Library. With its many shelves and millions of stories, each one unique, each one special in its own way, there is no place like it in the world. I love going to the library after school for hours on end, looking at the books. The St. Anthony Park Library is unique because of its architecture. The original library, now the adult-teen section, was part of a Carnegie Library built in 1917. It has been updated, and a children’s section, built in the shape of a large dome, was attached to the old building.
During the cold winter months of Saint Paul, there is a mecca that kids of all ages flock to with religious fervor. Mecca is Groveland, the king of neighborhood ice rinks. Drive down St. Clair Avenue anytime day or night, and witness the packed rinks of pickup hockey, toddlers pushing plastic chairs in a circle, and packs of tween girls in huddles, observing packs of tween boys.
The scramble begins. The quickest gets the matching gloves. Snowsuit on . . . wool socks on . . . boots on . . . I just need a hat and gloves. A lone glove lies on the wood floor in the entryway. Where’s its mate? Hats, scarves, and mismatched gloves fly out of the wicker basket. “Ah ha!” It sits at the bottom calling to its twin. I’m ready, we’re set, let’s go! We pile into the minivan, shovels in the back. The best part about searching for the Winter Carnival medallion isn’t the digging. No, at age eight I prefer to lie in the snow or sit and watch the people shoveling around us.
Growing up in the West Seventh Street area of Saint Paul in the 1950s and 60s, in a family with no car, could have limited my adventure horizons, except that tucked away just out of sight, near its west end, lay Crosby Lake—and I was lucky enough to discover it in my teens, when any wildness oasis in the heart of Saint Paul seemed as rich in natural wonders as any of the great national parks out west!
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, something magical happens at Como Lake. Just off the side of the walking path stands a huge pine tree, and one by one, Christmas tree ornaments begin to appear on the branches. These are not the expensive, trendy decorations that you see for sale in matched, color-coordinated sets. No, some of these are the ragtag older ones used for years at grandma’s house.
Christmas is one of my favorite holidays—there are a lot of differences between Christmas in America and in my country, Sierra Leone. In America, all they do is exchange gifts and go to work, but in Sierra Leone people will start celebrating a week before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, people will do lots of grocery shopping and buy lots of meats and chicken because they like to cook fresh food in the morning. On the day of Christmas, all you can smell is the good smell of different aromas—yum, yum.
The forty-fifth parallel runs through Saint Paul, Minnesota. This parallel is generally considered the halfway point between the equator and the North Pole. This is irrelevant to our everyday lives with the exception of one truth: it is the cause of our extremely unpredictable weather, a concept that consumes us. We talk about it with co-workers, we talk about it on dates, we analyze it on the TV, we use it as an excuse for being late, we complain about it, we use it to avoid awkward gaps in uncomfortable conversation, and most importantly, we live in it.
“My favorite place in Saint Paul is Lady Elegant’s Tea Room. Lady Elegant’s Tea Room is special to me because that’s where I had my first cup of tea.” It’s fun to go there because in the back of the room is a wall lined with hooks. On each hook is a different hat. One hat in particular is special to me. That hat is red velvet with a fingertip veil in the front and three red bows on top of each other on the side. I wear it every time I have tea there with my mom, and it’s my favorite.
Back in my younger and more foolish days, I spent a lot of time exploring the sewers under the Fort Road neighborhood of Saint Paul. The tunnels run under every street at an average depth of about thirty feet. These tunnels, which carry raw sewage, were dug out of the St. Peter sandstone bedrock with handpicks more than 100 years ago. Their floors are paved with brickwork. I once painstakingly measured the aggregate length of this sewer labyrinth on sewer maps and found it was thirty miles long—the length of the famous Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. The funny thing is, it’s almost totally unknown to the public.
The only time I ever lost my wallet was at a Twins game in 1972. When I discovered my back pocket was empty, I remember my brother Tom and I running across the parking lot and crawling under a half-open service door to get back into Met Stadium. As we walked through the bowels of that venerable sports palace looking for help, my stomach was in knots thinking about losing over sixty dollars, my driver’s license, credit card and student discount card for Burger King. Suddenly, we spotted a burly figure coming towards us. Was this my angel of mercy?
I’m sure there are many who say they love Saint Paul more than any other place on earth, but for me to say that would be an understatement. That’s because living anywhere outside of downtown Saint Paul would be like being in jail. I live in the heart of the skyway system in downtown, and for me it is freedom. You see, I am both deaf and blind.
The segments could be about any subject we chose—as long as it pertained to Saint Paul. I learned that more than a few of those on hand already had extensive experience as television producers and/or videographers. For complete novices like me, SPNN planned to offer crash courses in video camera operation, lighting, and editing. The classes were quick but comprehensive, and gave me enough confidence to take the plunge into shooting my first video. I submitted my proposal for the project and felt ready to check out the necessary equipment and start filming.
For those of us who think about, study, discuss, photograph, worship, and otherwise adore the weather, Saint Paul is a miniature atmospheric playground.
But the actual movie wasn’t the big event—it was the walk home. With complete abandon and total unselfconsciousness, we acted all of our favorite scenes from the movie we had just seen.
The first moustache on record appeared on a Scythian horseman around 300 BCE. Assuming he had the most advanced tools of his day, this Pazyryk rider enjoyed scraping a single, dull, possibly copper blade across his wind-swept cheek. Things have only mildly improved. Even with the Gillette-Schick cartel’s recent move to five-bladed razors, shaving technology has moved forward at a molasses pace with one blade improvement every 450 or so years.
Gone are the days when I could sneak out of the house to get a few groceries without even brushing my hair. Now I have to look decent because I know people will stare, smile, and wave at me the whole way. Ever since we bought an electric car, I feel like I’m a float in a parade wherever I go.
My sister phones. “Storm!” she says, disgusted. “They’re calling this a storm. No wind, maybe an inch of snow. It’s winter, for Pete’s sake, we’re supposed to have snow. Get a grip!” My sister is not one of your hardy outdoors types, but we’re Iron Rangers, and even though between us we’ve spent six decades in Saint Paul, we retain the Ranger’s right to scorn urban wimpiness. It’s the TV weather people who have set her off. “They are trying to brainwash us into weather wimps.”
My furnace was a young pup in 1936 when Saint Paul hit its all-time low temperature of -34° F. Capitol Winchester sits like Santa Claus in my basement. He’s entering his eightieth winter.
Just about the time our Vikings’ season is over, all of the grass is covered by snow. The mornings of scraping the ice off your windshield have become repetitive. It’s getting to the coldest time of the year. Thanks to the great City of Saint Paul, there’s a week of celebration in the snow. Parents and their families come out of their homes. It’s like a Minnesota version of a hibernation break. After months of being indoors, the Saint Paul Winter Carnival and the great treasure hunt are finally here!
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