||Theres a deep steep train trench dug diagonally through Dinkytown. Its bridged in two places over 14th avenue and over Fourth Street, the latter being the road Bob Dylan did not really sing about at all. (He was a former Dinkytowner, which is probably what the song refers to.) The old bridges were constructed in a utilitarian era, and consisted of ugly girders poking through the concrete. In the early 80s someone wrote Reclassify Reagan as a Vegetable on one of the girders in some sort of super-ink that could not be faded or scoured by a dozen harsh winters. If they hadnt taken the old bridges down a few years ago, the sentiment would have outlived the man. I stood on the new bridge today, and could still imagine where the words used to be. Going back to an old home is full of moments like that, and they all remind you of the same blunt fact: you belong to places, but places dont belong to you. They change as they please and couldnt care less what you think.
Memory is a joker, though. Memory is silently laughing at you, because you think you remember everything, but it knows better. For example, heres the bridge today.
Theres not one person in 100 who, when asked to describe the dominant structures of Dinkytown, would mention the gargantuan T-Rex skeletons hanging over streets. You saw them every day, and in the end they made no impression whatsoever.
I had a few hours on my own that used to be a luxury, but its now becoming the norm again. Gnat was in school. My work at the office was done. I decided to drive over to Dtown and sit in a café and read a book. But the temps were in the high 70s, and it was a perfect day to walk around my old home. No picture really captures the neighborhood, but these will have to do.
Half the houses in the surrounding neighborhood look like this: old structures trapped in a vinyl siding crypt with modern windows poked in the walls, and strange, rambling additions. We all lived in houses like this. They were fun at the time, since everyone was playing at being adults, but these dwellings had better lives once. Respectable lives. They were single-family dwellings, which meant holidays and Christmas trees and kids in the yard, dogs on a leash, dads in hats coming home from work on the streetcar. Now they have the blank dead gaze of an old woman staring blankly at the wall in a nursing home.
Around the corner, this:
What name would you give such an elegant structure? Why, of course: The Chateau. Tremendous views, but its quite the eyesore. From the side it looks like the Fortress of Count Napster, too. Its the only high rise in the area, and while we appreciated its cachet no building in my home town was that tall, except for the Seniors Residence downtown it had that crushing brutal FIST OF CONCRETE posture that summed up every craptilicious facet of modern architecture. It exudes contempt for everyone who has to live in its shadow; it ignores any references to history, because of course history is irrelevant. You will be assimilated, at least for the duration of your lease. Its a giant joyless mudmonster that got hit with a freeze-ray en route to kicking over the City of Townsville, and stands as a reminder of that most wonderful period of American architecture: the 60s and 70s, when our brightest minds decided we should all live in rain-stained concrete behemoths modeled after British public housing projects. Im surprised they didnt bring a basket of Rothmans and Watneys Red Barrel to your door on move-in day.
Other Dtown details. Spotted under an awning:
Somehow, in context, the lunacy is not exactly apparent. A few yards away, a sight that has that unnerving Escape from New York post-apocalypse vibe:
Bank depositories should not be defiled! It calls the stability of the entire economic system into question, somehow! Dtown has much more graffiti nowadays, and its the same idiot scribble you find elsewhere. Although its possible that KUMA is a reference to Sky-U-Ma, the old U of M fight song I learned at Freshman camp.
Yes, I went to Freshman camp. In the woods, somewhere. We woke at dawn and tumbled from our bunks to do the Chicken Fat routine in the camps assembly area. We had orientation lessons in the afternoon, skits at night, and our lusty young lungs poured forth the fight song of our beloved U:
Minnesota, hats off to thee
To thy colors true we shall ever be
Firm and strong united are we
Rah Rah Rah for Sky-U-Mah
Rah! Rah! Rah! Rah!
Rah for the U of M.
At the time I actually thought I was entering some 1920s style College complete with Harold Lloyd underdogs, malt shops, raccoon coats, slogan-spattered flivvers and wiseacre upperclassmen whose charming alcoholism sparred with their serious literary talents. In short, the high point of college was the week spent in the woods prior to the first day of class. I did meet one girl I wanted to date, but when I ran into her later on campus she had no idea who I was. Understandable; there were 50,000 people attending the U. Also, as I learned later, the one I asked out was the twin sister of the one Id met at camp.
Today I walked right past the bus shelter where Id run into the wrong twin 28 years ago. She had long blonde hair, I recalled; really long. Were talking catches-in-the-bike-spokes long. I kept walking through the Old Campus, went down into the gloomy ghastly subterranean bookstore, found the mens room without a second thought, and remembered the cold harsh wind that blew through the empty gray walkways. I had a beige jacket with a sheepskin collar in those days. Hadnt thought about that jacket in 20 years. File under Giant Metal Electrical Wire Superstructures.
In the alley between the Old College Inn and Grays Drug, this nifty sight. I love this it looks like the Secret Overlord Switchbox.
What of this, eh?
Simple. 322 is a reference to the Skull and Bones society, the hokey goofy secret organization to which Bush and Kerry belonged in college. An explantion is here. The woman interviewed notes that 322 is very important to John Kerry. My God! Shes absolutely right!
I found one of those card & crap stores I used to love so much, the places stuffed with clever small items you could put in your room to indicate your status as a freethinker with the proper ironic attitude towards everything your parents accepted WITHOUT QUESTION, MAN. This means little statutettes of nuns so repressed, its sick and refrigerators that mercilessly mock Bush as only a refridgerator magnet can. Then I saw this:
A Che doll. Oddly enough, he has the expression of someone who's just seen the black van pull up outside his house and heard the sharp knock at the door, and thinks: "This is impossible; I am a leading theortician of the Party. Surely no one has denounced me. It's all a misunderstanding, I'm sure. Hello, Comrades - but - but - why the gun? Stop! Ow!"
Che, says one site, variously translates as "Hey, you ...", or 'Chum', or 'Buddy', or 'Pal', or 'The Kid'. I prefer Hey, you, since it means I can refer to him as Whazzup Guevera. The back of the tag had a quote from Saint Sartre: Che was the most complete human being of our age. Meaning, he was a good collectivist who college girls would TOTALLY do. Lenin in tight jeans. Let us not forget his wise and humane beliefs:
He comes to believe in hatred as a potent revolutionary force. "Hatred (is) an element of the struggle," he later writes in his 'Message to the Tricontinental'.
"A relentless hatred of the enemy, impelling us over and beyond the natural limitations that man is heir to and transforming him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy. We must carry the war into every corner the enemy happens to carry it: to his home, to his centres of entertainment; a total war."
In some alternate world, perhaps:
But not in this one. At least not near a University, for that matter. Slumbr away, kids. The sleep of reason, and all that.