Art by Maya Rose
By Martin Devaney ● 2016
Where I first put my arm around you. Clad in red coats and autumn hats, we walked from the Farmers’ Market, bags of basil in hand, then arm in arm. The dog waited.
How many more Saint Paul authors will win literary prizes this year? Two weeks ago, we were talking about Julie Schumacher winning the Thurber Prize for American humor. Last week, Macalester College professor Marlon James won the Man Booker Prize.
Autumn is my favorite time of year. (Did I already tell you that?) I have heard whisperings that I am not the only one who enjoys the season. A few of the leaves have begun their turn, and we have been blessed with sun shining through the crisp air. The festivals are winding down but not completely, and a lot of performance seasons are starting up.
RICHARD ABRAHAM paints outside. “Painting is easy until you know how,” Edgar Degas knew, and now Abraham knows. His pictures delight.
It will leave nothing. Nothing. The future comes, ripping the asphalt up—black, jagged slabs.
Dale Massie pulls for the little guy. “I’m pulling for the little guy, like you and me. God gives us free will. We have no excuse. You know what I’m saying?” While he smoked his break away, we engaged and enjoyed a free-ranging dialogue that touched on aliens, human violence, the many names for God...
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.
Workers performing advance utility relocation work in preparation for light rail construction in Lowertown have stumbled across what local authorities believe may be a long lost royal complex that is likely the final resting place of Boreas the Brrrave. It is not unusual for the refuse of bygone eras to turn up during large scale excavations such as that which has been taking place in Lowertown this past summer. Similar work on the Hiawatha Line in Minneapolis uncovered scores of bottles, household items and more than a few horseshoes. The quality, variety, and sheer volume of items discovered beneath 4th street have, however, prompted calls for a halt to further work on the project - if only temporarily.
Saint Paul is a provincial town, a green place of bluffs and rolling hills made up of culture swatches—Old Timers and Newcomers—that sometimes clash and bump up against each other. But eventually, with a little nip and tuck here and a stitch or two there, we settle into a quilted work that is strong and wide enough to cover us all. Saint Paul is a haven for the creative and the faint of heart; those of us who long for a little less struggle and a lot more quality. So, I ran. Yes, I ran away, away!
It was Tuesday in Mears Park, the second day of the Republican National Convention (RNC). We had already marched on Monday as part of the crowd of 10,000 protesting everything from the war in Iraq to the presence of Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu. Being part of a large group like that, you tend to only see and hear those things in your immediate area. But someone mentioned that they heard a cop say there had already been tear gas used farther downtown.
Welcome to the off-the-clock lives of artists in downtown Saint Paul. Thanks principally to the City of Saint Paul, the former Lowertown Redevelopment Corporation, ArtSpace, the Saint Paul Art Collective Housing Corporation, and local foundations, Lowertown—a district that by the early 1980s had lost most of its commerce and stood semi-abandoned and down on its luck—is thriving again.
If you were to stand here today, on an equally mild summer morning, as the maker of this 1925 photograph did, Union Depot would not look much different. It would be, of course: time changes not only the physical lives of buildings but their meaning and function.