12.2.13

Today on Streets.mn: A Love Note to the Mississippi

There's a special Valentine's Day theme this week on Streets.mn. All of us were challenged to come up with one thing we 'loved' about our city. Here were the instructions:
Here are a few ground rules:

- Be genuine
- Don't be ironic (no MOA, 494-169 interchange or skyway posts)
- Try to be somewhat original / unique
- Don't share ideas (if something comes up twice, that's cool)

Lets title them all with "I Love ___".

I wrestled with this assignment, particularly with the rule: "don't be ironic." Damn! I brainstormed possibilities, and rejected them almost as quickly for partial irony. For example, I was going to declare my love for NIMBYs, why despite everything I still appreciated them. But that would have been not a little snarky. I thought about my love of the city's dive bars, but that was too alcoholic. I pondered my love for the city's old working-class neighborhoods, but I don't quite feel sincere about that either. Lampposts? Sunlight? Biking?

Finally, I realized what I truly loved about the city: the river. And, importantly, not the dead river of a landscape painting, but the living river of the floodplain. Here's the main point of the essay:
Though lovely, what I love about the river isn’t its landscape. Crossing the Mississippi bridges, as I do so many times each day, you can look down at the vanishing point, the bluffs that climb up each side giving relief to the seasons. Here the river is beautiful but so distant. I supose that all cities have a backdrop, something to place outside the window, mountains or an ocean. The river is just another one of these still life paintings, and architects take great pains to arrange their views. Here the river remains untouchable, lifeless.

No, what I love about the river is how it flows through the city, how it floods and settles, how it disturbs the land and stakes its raging claim. The riverfront is a wild and open place, refusing to solidify. When I was a kid, growing up in a suburb near the Mississippi, I used ride my bike down to explore the river flats along Lilydale park. Elm trees rose up around ruined foundations of abandoned homes, and you could find occasional antedevulian artefacts, bathtubs or bottles.
I spent the last few days remembering all my riverside stories, all the old adventures. They could fill a book.


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