This time of year, as summertime approaches its zenith, when we find ourselves walking on sidewalks baking under the hot afternoon sun, I am grateful I live in a city with lakes: sandy shores, skipping light reflections, the odd smell of water, crowds lazing lazily, neon objects arcing gently through the air, the sounds of sisters being splashed by brothers, joggers and strollers and picnics, oh my. These lakes are a wonderful treasure, special sorts of sidewalks, public spaces of the first order, alive with people watching, places where personal space is a continual state of play, places where people gather to relax. How rare it is to have this kind of nature right in the middle of a bustling city, to have a lake be a part of everyday life, connected to your home or neighborhood. I haven't really seen anything like it. Sure, other cities may have their beautiful river valleys, ravines, gorges, oceans (pshaw), or sublime mountains. But lakes are something different. Usefully swimmable! Clean, practical, saltless, and just the right size!
My only complaint has always been that almost all of Minneapolis' lakes are surrounded by high-end residential homes. Take your pick of just about any of the lakefront shoreline areas in the city, and what do you find? A bunch of very nice, but very dull and boring city tax revenue streams. I bet they're very nice places for the folks that can afford them, but for the rest of us hoi polloi, the lakes are only good for walking, jogging, skating, swimming, gazing at, skiing upon, or renting watercraft within. (Well, that is quite a list.) But, what these lakes are missing are places to sit around and hang out nearby. If anyone has ever been to Madison and gotten the privilege of having a beer on the Union Terrace overlooking Lake Mendota, you'll know what I'm talking about. If it wasn't for the Lake Harriet bandshell, or Tin Fish, there would be hardly anywhere in the city to really enjoy a lakefront sidewalk experience.
So in my annual quest for the perfect summer in the city spot, I was delighted to find myself at the corner of 50th Street and 28th Avenue S. Here, at this obscure corner, you will find yourself at the perfect marriage of sidewalk and beach, nature and culture, sunshine and shade.
This little street is one of the few places where commercial real estate and Minneapolis Lakes come together, almost touching, to create a little lakeside / sidewalk isthmus. You can walk or stroll from the lake through the garden to the coffee shop and bakery and back again. In a sense, they are almost indistinguishable. Seeing the two guys sitting and drinking their coffee, shirtless, tanning their already leathery skin in front of a be-flowered teal canoe, while the whole neighborhood read the newspaper, chatted, or biked by... and only a block away lurked the lure of the beach, where time slows to a languid crawl, and (perhaps) the best swimming in the city awaits. All this corner really needs is a rooftop patio.
So, go jump in a lake, Malibu. I'll take my 5oth Street, where the beach meets the pleasant pace of everyday life, and stress seems to evaporate in the warm summer sun.