Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A City in June...

A city in June is usually a lovely thing. It is such a good time to meet a city. People are so happy to be out in the sunshine, flowers are blooming, summer heat hasn't beaten anyone down yet... I often hit new cities in June (takes me a month after school ends to get a trip planned, it seems) and over the years I've had lovely affairs with Atlanta, DC, Portland and Ithaca.

My current crush is Minneapolis. And tomorrow, when I head to St Paul, it'll probably become a polyamorous thing.

I was in Minneapolis/St Paul exactly a year ago for my first visit. Now I'm back for research and a conference. I know just enough of the geography and offerings that everything is pretty easy. Just to extend the crush/fling analogy, it is like having sex with someone for the second time.

Despite my bike having been stolen last year during my visit, I've opted to bike the cities again. I rented a snazzy red Trek commuter -- fully outfitted with rack, trunk bag, lights, lock, spd pedals, etc. -- so I am feeling very free. Right now I'm having a lovely beer at the Town Hall Brewery, but soon I will roll on down to the bike path and say hi to the Mississippi river.

Today's adventures included checking into a dorm room. The conference I am attending is held on college campuses and they open the dorms early so that people can come research before the proceedings begin. The twin bed looks disturbingly small and oddly high, but the room is fine and I like being on campus. I like the lounge three rooms down that has a view of the Mississippi. I like that there are towels, since I neglected to pack any.

Next up was renting my bike and taking a very roundabout (and pleasant!) route to the downtown public library -- a stunning building. Many of the mechanicals have been left (intentionally) exposed, so you can see the guts of the escalators and elevators, for example. There is lots of glass, including between the rungs of the stairs that float out into the atrium. I'm sure all the blonde wood will soon look dated and worn, but I love huge, ambitious public buildings -- especially ones that are libraries.

The Special Collections in the library are chock full of interesting things -- including clipping files on "pornography" and "Chicago Ave" (both related to my current research). Some dedicated staff people read the papers every morning/week and dutifully clipped out articles on protests at dirty bookstores and neighborhood organization meetings over the last 40 years. Yay! They were so happy to have someone there loving on their stuff, the archivist offered to stay a half hour beyond official closing (4:30pm!) so that I could finish the folder I was working on. (I know, it should be "the folder on which I was working" but that just sounds dumb.)

Interestingly (okay, perhaps only to me), the library is around the corner from the warehouse district where all the "adult businesses" landed after the zoning ordinances of the late 1980s drove them out of neighborhood commercial districts. I'm amused by researching the history of the built environment that just out the door and down the block. I rolled around the block once just to take in the "girls, girls, girls, all nude, all the time" signage...

But then the ride from here to there (library to brewery): Minneapolis is bike friendly. There be bikes EVERYWHERE and the drivers of cars are almost scarily polite to bikers. But the city has these FREAKY bike lanes that run down the middle of downtown streets. On some, the bikes lanes are double wide -- with lanes for bikes going in both directions. It is wild (somewhere in between insane and cool) to have a bus pass you on the right... in rush hour traffic. All is good, except on Hennepin Ave where the middle-of-the-road bike lane gets to an intersection and just ends. No hints. No explanation. Nothing.... except 2 full lanes of traffic between you and that right turn. Hmmm.... I tried to catch a guy in full bike dork regalia to get the skinny, but the light changed and he got away. I muddled through, but this is a mystery that must be solved this week.

More reports to follow, I hope.


Anonymous said...

Ride safely, my friend!
And rats! This means you won't be on the RAT on Friday (get it? I said "rats". I is so cleverz!!!1!1!)

Warren said...

When the bike lane ends, you're supposed to tap into your incredible lightness of being and float up up and away over the cars.

Daye said...

I am sooooo jealous. My Thomas lives just outside of MSP and two of my best girls are IN MSP. sigh--but I get to see them all in Wisconsin this weekend.