The Illustrated Border Stroll

[Despite appearances, this building is NOT on the border.]
I have a column today at Minnpost, sitting in for my friend Andy Sturdevant's Stroll column. I ended up walking the complete border between Minneapolis and Saint Paul (as best I could).

Some interesting facts about the experience:
  • You end up getting Madonna's "Borderline" stuck in your head.
  • There is a hobo camp by the railroad tracks. I didn't investigate too closely. 
  • Only a few buildings actually exist on both sides of the line: the KSTP HQ, and a few warehouses.

Read the whole thing over at Minnpost. Here's the denouement and moral:
Eventually, the border took me over a fallen fence and into a lumberyard, where I wound my way around piles of fresh wood wrapped in plastic, 15-foot-long boards piled high around me. I could see my goal in the distance, Como Avenue, where St. Paul becomes Lauderdale and the Minneapolis/St. Paul border comes to an end.
Still, I was stuck in the lumberyard. I had vague hopes that I’d find an open gate waiting for me at the other side of the wooden maze.
No such luck. The fence was closed, and I was trapped. Thoughts of retreat gathered in my mind like spiders as I hopped onto a pile of boards next to a fence cruelly topped with barbed wire. As I peered over the top, I saw a man getting into a gray Japanese sedan. Naturally, I froze like a deer, but apparently he saw me.
He popped out of the car.
“How did you get in there?” He shouted up, flabbergasted.
“I was lost in the woods, and had to come in over the fence.” This was the best I could do.
“I don’t have a key for this door!” he muttered. “I’m the last one here.”
That was just the start of our confusing conversation. I had to hand him my backpack, and he reluctantly began helping me over the fence.
“Come over to the east side,” he yelled at me through the wooden slats. “OK, now prop your foot on that pole.”
Somehow I vaulted myself over the top of the ten foot fence, without breaking it or myself. Relieved, I hopped to the ground. Nearly every bone in my body was embarrassed. How do you explain to someone that you’re trying to walk the entire border of Minneapolis and St. Paul for literary/geographic reasons?
I shook his hand and said thanks, intending to get out of there as fast as possible, trying not to imagine what was going through his head.
But just as I turned to leave, one last jolt of journalistic curiosity tingled through my feet. I turned back, Peter Falk style, and asked him the question.
“Is this building in Minneapolis or St. Paul?”
He paused and almost smiled. “Well, both” he replied. “The warehouse is in St. Paul, but the yard is in Minneapolis. See that part of the fence where it changes? That’s the border, due to different regulations in each city.”
 After 15 minutes of wandering through the woods, I had popped my head up over the fence not 10 feet from the actual border between the two cities.
And that spot in the fence, where 33rd Avenue would be if it actually existed, marked the end of my journey. The border walk taught me a few things. There’s a big difference between theory and practice, between an idea and its execution. I had assumed that the border would be relatively docile, a landscape of subtle difference like you find along Emerald Street.
As it turns out, the border is often a no-man’s-land, a place unclaimed by responsibility, the very definition of “marginal.” There are hobo camps, strange tramp trails, meaningless fences, artistic expanses, odd paths, vast open spaces, quizzical landmarks and the rear ends of warehouses.

Also, for the curious, all of the photos from the borderland:

[Looking each way on the River Road path; Mpls on the left, St Paul on the right.]
[The cracked beginning of the border, heading toward an Emerald Street spur.]

[The border runs behind these apartments.]
[You can tell which city you are in by looking at the street signs.]

[The border visible in the asphalt at St Anthony Avenue.]
[The border leading north through the woods, across the tracks.]

[A peaceful border path through the woods.]

[An odd boulder on the border.]

[The border at I-94, the St Paul sign perched on the edge.]

[The border on the other side of the freeway, where the sound wall comes to a halt.]

[St Paul on the left, Minneapolis on the right; choose your poison.]

[Looking up Emerald Street along the borderline.]

[Emerald where the apartments begin. Note the difference in tree color.]

[The borderline from the KSTP sidewalk, running right through the LRT station.]

[The borderline is right on the vertical stroke of the 'K', then clips through an Indian headdress.]

[The borderline marked again in the street behind the KSTP building.]

[An odd border fortification.]

[This fence between parking lots more or less marks the border.]

[This piece of HOTTEA art is pretty much on the border.]

[Parts of a piano sitting in the borderlands.]

[Border animals.]
[Looking South along the border from the Union Pacific East Minneapolis yards.]

[You can see the border again where the yellow line changes from dashed to solid.]

[There are some odd paths along the border, behind parking lots and warehouses.]

[Another border path, leading to a large open field by Highway 280.]

[The final border fence. The change in height marks the edge of the two cities.]


jenion.com said...

I really enjoyed the article, and appreciate seeing all the photos. Thanks!

Doug T said...

I enjoyed the articles and photos as well! The msp/stp borderlands are a fascinating place indead. A lost world.