Sidewalk of the Week: Western Avenue

The amazing thing about when snow comes is the sidewalk disappearing act. They're gone. Impossibly gone, buried six feet under. Then, the next day -- [poof!] -- they're back. How do they do it? Neighbors with snowblowers come by, pretending not to enjoy blowing the snow clear across the street. Plow drivers collect overtime. Guys with trucks get excited. Boots come out of the closet, and vast armies of shovels assemble like the mops from Disney's Fantasia. Even snowmobiles stop gathering dust. It's the economy of yesteryear.

This sidewalk on Western Avenue in Saint Paul was, like most in the Twin Cities this weekend, covered w/snow. Now its pristine concrete is back, ready to be trod upon.


As pointed out by erstwhile reader, Andrew, there is more snow at this very moment, covering the sidewalks all over town. I just saw the guy who works at the Potbelly Sandwich Shop struggling in vain to keep his sidewalk clear of snow. Ha! Fat chance. (Of course, he's only doing it because he's a low-paid fast food worker and will be fired if he gives up trying...)


Sidewalk of the Week: Cedar Avenue

This sidewalk, at the corner of Cedar and Washington Avenues in Minneapolis, has a story to tell. Originally, there wasn't supposed to be any sidewalk here at all. This land is right next to Washington Avenue as it has its brief moment in the high-speed, limited-access, four-lane sun, speeding over the Mississippi River, under the University's pedestrian bridge, and through the Metrodome corridor until it lands in Minneapolis' downtown core, right next to the Star Tribune parking lot. The only sidewalk at this corner ran along Cedar Avenue -- a lovely poured concrete sidewalk, though a bit lacking on scenery what with the freeway running underfoot.

But, after they realized that a bus stop at this corner was necessary, someone poured asphalt along this patch of land, in the attempt to have people stop walking on the grass. But even that didn't work -- people love to cut their corners as they process from the bus stop to the dense, diverse Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Now you can see the muddy tracks of those bus riders cutting through the snow. Perhaps another sidewalk is in order?


Tales from the Bus

Update: I saw her again, on one of the coldest nights of the year. She was sitting on the #16 with her big bag on the seat next. She was quieter this time, though I did hear her soft, high voice as she asked the kid next to her about his day at school. He mumbled something back before getting of the bus a bit early. I wonder where she slept last night?

Original Entry:

This lady gets on the #16, she's old and hunched and round and carrying a ton of bags -- probably five large grocery or cloth or trash bags. Who knows how she carries them all? She is old and wrinkled but it's not apparent at first just how wrinkled her face actually is because she has a blue, powder blue blanket wrapped around her shoulders like a cape or a cloak. Its the big kind of blanket, the large kind you might find on a bed, and it has that texture of a cheap polar fleece, the brittle unnatural kind that reminds you of fallen leaves or styrofoam. It's this powder blue blanket wrapped around her shoulders and clasped at her chin by a large safety pin, and on her head is a knit sweater or scarf, something that keeps her ears warm, pulled over the top of her head like an old Russian woman, and her sweatshirt has some sort of small dog on it. She places all her bags slowly on the only open seat on this, the crowded #16 bus, and excruciatingly clings to the pole until the college kid next to me gets up.

She sits down and says thank you in the highest voice you've ever heard, sucking on a helium balloon kind of high-pitch sing song cadence, on an on … and I started listening to her. “Each day is a new beginning” was the first thing she said. “Every day God gives you a chance to start anew,” she went on, this little wrinkled quite probably homeless blue-blanketed lady with a high, high singsong voice. “And Jesus said I am branch and the vine,” she squeaked on. I was the closest person to her, just a seat and a half away on her left, and when she would speak she would almost turn and face me, almost but not quite looking in my direction. Almost making a sidelong glance, “Each day is a new beginning. The Lord Jesus Christ heals all sins,” almost looking at me but not quite, instead turning her head back to stare straight ahead, then turning again three quarters back to me. “I am the light and the truth and the way. Each day is a new beginning.”

She went on and on and it was like she was talking to me. It was exactly like she was talking to me, in that she had her head turned almost to me, and I could see her eyes, and I started at her openly as she sang on with her high voice. Turning almost to me over and over for what seemed like a lot more than three minutes. It seemed like an hour. I wanted to say something back to her. I wanted to say “thank you” or “good luck,” but I just got off the bus and didn’t look back.


Grand Theft Auto: Baghdad

The parallels between driving while playing GTA and while serving in the Armed Forces are eerie.