Sidewalk of the Week: Washington & 11th Avenues

Along come the pumps. Gallons of water, streaming from deep underground, lofted high into the air, arching streams of cold water on this cold week, crusting and frosting and flooding the sidewalk, the streetcorner, to turn the old building to a giant glazed doughnut.

Sometimes these things happen, even to the best of sidewalks, even to sidewalk cafes with awnings and tables on small old-ended streets on riverbanks in river cities. Overnight, or in the middle of the day . . . you never know when men with trucks will appear to transform your street into wedding cakes. It looks delicious to me, this decorated sidewalk.

[Shackleton braves the arctic sidewalk, venturing forth into the unknown. Will be he rescued in time?]

Another thing happens, too. The street is closed off, the stream of cars detouring round the collapsed and rebuilding bridge are warded away and people with cameras gather in the early Spring sun, glinting through icicles hanging from eaves. Hipsters in clusters wearing crampons, scaling waterfall walls. Well-dressed folks with trip0ds and waiting cars. Gawkers executing drive-by shootings through rolled-down windows. For some reason, a lonely man with a golf club wanders past, looking for summer, a lit cigar lip-hanging.

[The flags paused mid-flap . . . Sadly, he'd stuck his tongue to the balcony railing, failing yet again to heed advice, a frozen pose.]

Is this the future, or the past? Is now the time to build igloos? If Minneapolis was once underneath a mile of ice, was it like this? Did this glacier bar serve frozen drinks? Should we build a fire, form clubs, and paint caves? Or, will the Earth freeze again? Is this the future . . . a city in ruins, the ground rising up, the water flooding forth, freezing butts to barstools? Is this a microscopic climate change?

[Washington Avenue was forever entombed that day. Centuries later, tourists would flock to the site, to see the primitive culture encased in amber.]

This is a sidewalk for iceskates. It's a sidewalk fancy, a fairy tale of ice and cornice, stalactite and heatlamp, sheets of glass and sheets of water, an accidental winter. While wading over hills of lumps of iced fire, with ashes of beams embedded, I wondered when it would disappear. Soon it will all melt, and bits of burnt board will flow down Washington Avenue. Interior fixtures will flow away. Bits of broken snow will flake off signs and bricks. Frail flags defrost and unfurl. Chairs melt. Heat lamps emerge from icebergs. Umbrellas find their purpose.
[Stuck somewhere between hot and cold, sits the ancient building, a frozen fire.]

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