onsdag, januar 10, 2007

Into the Bigger City

I rode the elevator of the Minneapolis City Hall yesterday with Mayor R.T. Rybek. He had his coffee. He seemed to have just acquired it. Apparently, even a mayor starts the morning like the rest of us.

Were I witty enough (to regret it) at that hour, I would have asked him if he also put his pants on one leg at a time, but instead, I said good morning. Prior to that, as we waited, he was very quiet, a bit serious-looking, which is probably something that comes from having people so frequently approach one quite possibly to be rude because politics makes one rude. (I'm certainly not going to mind my manners if those dipshits Norm Coleman or Michele Bachman are waiting for an elevator with me.)

But I said hello as the doors closed and we were two people trapped for the ride to the third floor.

He brightened abruptly. He said, "Hey." He said, "How are you?" I was well, thanks. I was.

See, people in Saint Paul are generally a little quieter. But we really love people. We're just a bit more quiet about it, at least when people are strangers. When they're friends, we get loaded and fawn over one another's undeniable greatness and embarass ourselves because we've got only one life in which to do so (and an eternity to be reminded of it by more publicly controlled relations and friends, and we know this and it humbles us).

So going to Minneapolis for a 9 a.m. meeting with a Minneapolis councilwoman to discuss sustainable design and the city's iniatives, I was very much like a St. Paul resident even though Chicago is my home city. I got frazzled by traffic between the cities (because the 12 minute ride was taking more than 20) and called my sister who is wiser about Minneapolis and she told me where there'd been and accident and that things would be okay.

Then, I got into the wrong lane around the lightrail tracks and missed my parking garage. And because I was forced to turn right, I got spun off in the wrong direction, panicked, took an immediate turn, wound up needing to turn even further away...but only because I panicked again and wound up turning into a buses-only lane. Dammit. I was trapped in that thing for like three blocks because the only other lanes on the street went the other way. I could feel all the eyes on me. I could hear the thoughts behind those eyes: "St. Paul."

Finally, I got righted, only to encounter two full garages. GAH!!!! About five blocks from the city hall, I found a garage with space but it took like 5 minutes to get up to a level with open spaces.

I ran to city hall. Along the way, I called to let the councilwoman know I'd be there shortly. An assistant answered. He said, "Okay then. So you're calling to tell us you're on your way." "Yes," I said, breathless. "I'll let the councilwoman know," he said. Dammit.

But I made it. I entered through some door that seemed important but was off to the side. No one was around. Not a single security guard. And as I made my way along the corridors to the meeting, I didn't find a single security guard. Nothing to indicate concern. Ever.

It's nice, I have to say, to still find public places where the public is not openly distrusted. We are fortunate here.

I've been to a Saint Paul government building with it's dramatically poor lighting scheme and imposing sculptures and security guards who aren't having a bit of fun in life.

But Minneapolis's city hall was clean and well-lit. (Hemingway would be proud, so long as no one told Scotty.) Even on the drive in, despite my panic, I'd taken a look at the downtown skyline and found it looking a hell of a lot less space-agey and weird than I normally think of it as.

It was just a good morning, I guess.

And the mayor's a nice guy. (My brother, the tK, related a funny story of the mayor showing up at a local college that was having a theme t-shirt day, and while he put on a t-shirt, he did the total dork-politician thing and tried wearing it over his shirt and tie.) And I conducted my interview and learned a few cool things.

It felt terribly cold in the city this morning but I was really happy to be there.

I ought to explore Saint Paul a bit more too. I've been here long enough to grow complacent about it. Honestly, I just don't give downtown much of a chance. But Kassandra is having people over for cocktails and then skating at the open rink by the Landmark Center this weekend, so maybe it's time to get to know downtown Saint Paul a bit more too.

Agreed: We probably ought to order it skating then cocktails. But this is Saint Paul. We'll do things our way. We'll build our courage, and then we'll happily make an ass of ourselves as we fall upon our asses.

Happy days,
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