Cedar begins on the cliffs overlooking river bottoms that once warmed railroaded wanderers like flotsam, and it runs straight south through this wild triangle in the riverbend where booze and hope still comingle in the gutters. From the river just east of downtown, through the West Bank circus, it's amputated by the clumsy pratfalls of the Hiawatha freeway. Here Cedar dangles over a concrete abyss choked with moving metal, reduced to an alley for motorcycles and weeds. Cedar reappears on the far side of the trench, another Federal moat piercing foreign tongues of drab reservations, seaming the last urban outpost of Indians lingering just past our imaginations. From there it flows down through the rusty city past porches overfilling with gravity, past yards with vacant stares, down and down along the only affordable housing for miles, sheltering people making do.
Then homes grow farther apart, driveways unsubside, gardens sprout, and gradually the weight of the city lifts itself upward floating away like a balloon slipping from the tired grip of a child. Cedar rises from the trees along the creek, tickling their leaves, driving farther south along picture houses until it meets the water and refuses to budge. The only street in Minneapolis so self-certain that it refuses to round, Cedar sidewalks cleave through Lake Nokomis like a hasty butcher and, stepping wet feet again onto shore, part the green parkland on the edge of town with traffic.
I was once asked if, in all my wanderings, I had ever found the precise place where the sidewalk ends. And yes, I have. The sidewalk ends again and again, and it’s always the same spot, always the same exhausting exhumation of bodies, and always with the same blind gleam in the reflection of windows. The sidewalk ends here, where Cedar Avenue disappears and becomes Trunk Highway #77. The sidewalks lumber up over the ground into a clunky ladder of cages, a hamster nest of bridges leading over garage doors. Bike lanes merge into onramps, houses erase themselves. The road opens up and horizons unfold. Looking south, your eyes rest on a vast impassable concrete ocean. Here the city ends.
|[Two roads diverge in a green wood looking North and South along Cedar Avenue.]|
|[The exact spot where Cedar Avenue becomes Trunk Highway #77.]|
|[The pedestrian birdcage.]|
|[The crosswalks wear away under the press of a billion tires.]|
|[A sidewalk beacon.]|
|[Phantoms since 1952.]|
|[A sidewalk cafe, boulevard paved with red cedar.]|
|[They repaint the Fat Lorenzo's mural each morning to match the weather forecast.]|
From here, the city seems impossibly far away. Cedar is gone, and Trunk Highway #77 runs straight as a fencepost out into the emptiness. Behind you, Cedar reaches back to the endless city out of sight. You can only trust it will lead you to the bricks, and their havens of hot dogs and strangers. But here you are on the edge, the Minneapolitan omega. One way is a desert, the other a long strange journey. In the meantime, wrap yourself in tomatoes while the sound of jets falls on your ears like dust. Here you can sit and breathe for a while, re-finding your wits before your journey. Enjoy it while it lasts. The restless city waits on the other side of the waterglass.
|[The sidewalk rises to bridge the gap.]|
|[No people allowed.]|