Sidewalk of the Week: North Sixth Avenue

What do you call a sidewalk that's not a sidewalk? Here's a sidewalk that seems at first to delight. It runs through canyons of ancient warehouses, forgotten gods lurking high overhead, the path leading around quiet corners and alleys and my feet reading the bricks in the street like a lost language.

I guess you call it the warehouse district. And unlike the "warehouse district," North Sixth Avenue is the real thing, filled with alleys and large imposing buildings, some warehouses still housing wares, like the big C. J. Duffey paper buildings that seems to still be somehow humming, and surrounding on all sides are the nicest of condominiums, chock full of architects and lawyers and all the pretty horses that struggle vainly to keep Minnesota labeled correctly on the maps. Filled with people in hiding, packing trucks and BMW's in equal proportion.

[The sidewalk rises and fractures, posing problems for the distracted.]

You walk along the sidewalks here and are immediately lost as they start to rise and fall like waves, jagged edges high over the street laying in wait for the proverbial truck, then disappearing, throwing the walker into the middle of unmarked streets. Sidewalk becomes street, street becomes sidewalk, and allatonce there is a truck coming at you and which way do you turn?

[Here the sidewalk takes a dip down, a split second San Francisco.]

North Sixth Avenue asks whether or not, sometimes, less is more. These streets have no yellow lines, no well-meaning paint pointing at when and where cars can turn. Here, place is a jumble. No curbs, no lamp posts, neither bench nor flower pot nor prettifying amenity. And yet, their silence and sunshadows and feeling of closure make walking almost holy. Here lie the last remnants of Minneapolis' history, the workers who filled railcars with grain and lumber and whatever else came through town . . . commodities of all stripes bound for farms across the horizons of prairie to the West.

[Where is the sidewalk? Do we walk on the side?
Or follow the shadows of lampposts, betwixt brick and ice?]

If this sidewalk had been anywhere else, it would have been paved over and improved into submission. If this sidewalk had any sense, it wouldn't bounce up and down like a bear on a trampoline. But it's here, on the other side of the tracks, beneath the overpass, the forgotten ground.

I love that you can still find places like this in the city, little sidewalk terrains, distinct sidewalk landscapes, alone and illegible. It's like going from earth to moon, and here I am on the sidewalk moon, walking aimlessly lost amid in a concrete funhouse, a brick kaleidoscope, a maze of warehouses where you don't know where you will next find your feet.

So, here's to you, North Sixth Avenue. May your long lost sidewalks lie forever in the shadow of the city, behind and beyond and beneath the gaze.

[The sun shines through an ageless scene, and for a moment it doesn't matter . . . sidewalk and street, past and present . . . it only matters that we're here, walking along the last bricks of Minneapolis.]


charlieq said...

Thanks for taking a fresh look at this. I've walked, run, biked and driven through these streets for years, but seeing them through your eyes makes them new again.

This place was really something three decades plus ago when the produce warehouses and others were operating where the parking ramps by Target Center are now. Let's hope the city never screws it up.

Anonymous said...

I used to work in the building in the third picture down and would have to park miles away and walk down North 6th Avenue dodging massive semi trucks and speeding traffic on no sidewalk. WTH, Minneapolis? Perhaps they'll turn the rest of those buildings into condos and the residents will demand it. Or the ballpark will swallow it all up. One can only hope.

Kristin said...

I work near this area and always enjoy a stroll along the undulating and sometimes vanishing sidewalks along 6th. I love it when a semi is blocking the way and a few cars wind up sitting there, confused.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely. I've spent many a hours wandering around all the 'lost' area on the other side of downtown. Extraordinarily interesting...N 5th St. also does it for me. Possibly a nod to the fact that those warehouses are what brought my family here back in the day...