1st June 12
garvs asked: This is not on your list of topics, but I am interested in bed time and morning rituals, both the broad topic and the habits of individuals.
Only about twenty minutes elapse between the moment I get out of bed and the moment I run out of the door for the bus stop. I don’t have pets to feed, or a newspaper to read, and I never eat breakfast in my apartment (I don’t think I’ve sat down for a meal on a weekday in my living quarters since I moved out of my parent’s house in 1998), so there’s not much of a reason to linger. I take a shower, brush my teeth, find some clothes somewhere (let’s not kid ourselves: on the floor, usually), make sure I have a book to read, and I’m gone. There is no reflection or dawdling.
If I set foot out of my front door before 8:37, I can make it to the Bloomington Avenue bus stop without needing to run or ride a bike. If I make it out the door closer to 8:30, I can walk to the slightly closer bus stop at Chicago Avenue. The bus arrives at Chicago Avenue between 8:44 and 8:47, and about two minutes later at Bloomington.
The bus is the #53, which is where I have ample time to reflect, and — most importantly — read. It’s a 40-minute bus ride to Lowertown St. Paul, where I work. That’s 80 minutes a day, round-trip, which comes out to well over six hours a week of reading time. It’s done wonders for my literacy.
The #53 is the best bus in Metro Transit’s entire fleet. It’s the one everyone that lives in South Minneapolis and works in downtown St. Paul takes, so all the MPR, History Center, Science Museum, McNally Smith and nonprofit organization workers are on it. It’s a nice place to meet your peers.
The best part of the 53, besides the passengers, is the drivers. There have been a few distinct driver eras. I don’t know how driver assignments work exactly, but usually you’ll have the same driver for a few months. The last 53 of the morning, which I’m usually on, seems reserved for drivers with some seniority, since it seems to be an easy route, so a lot of them are older employees with a pretty good attitude. Metro Transit drivers are an interesting bunch. They seem to come from all kinds of professional and personal backgrounds. The most recent driver is a really agreeable, friendly guy with a long white goatee.
My favorite was the Charlie Era, which lasted through the last half of 2011. Charlie never talked much, but he had a great look: a guy in his late 50s with white buzzed-cut hair, Ton-Loc wrap-around sunglasses, a silver feather earring, and one black leather driving glove.
I only had one conversation with him. Before I got off one day, he suddenly pointed at a nearby building, and asked, “Hey, what’s in that building?” I told him it was Heartland, a good restaurant. “You ever eaten there?” he asked. “Yeah, two or three times,” I said. “What’s it like?” he asked. “It’s nice. Very good food. They have a really good reputation,” I reported. “Cool,” he said. “That’s cool. I’m going to eat there tomorrow.”
He once got flagged over before a detour in downtown St. Paul by a Metro Transit worker who tried to chew him out for making a wrong turn or something (“C’mon, Charlie, we put those signs there for a reason!”) and Charlie just didn’t seem to care. He kept his sunglasses on and I think actually said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah” in a surprisingly dismissive voice.
I wonder whatever became of Charlie. I hope he’s either retired, or driving another good morning route. I hope he had a meal at Heartland.
21st April 12
Here is a list I was scrawling on the back of a postcard on the bus ride home the other day. I was assembling this list for very important reasons related to the creation of very important cultural products:
- Zebra cakes
- Fancy cakes
- Star Crunch
- Skyline chili (frozen, canned or drive-thru)
- Mr. Gatti’s pizza
- Hostess fruit pies
- Kroger-brand fruit pies
- Little Caesars pizza
- White Castles
- Shoney’s breakfast buffet
- Totino’s Party Pizza
- Vanilla Coke
- Vanilla Cherry Coke
- Kroger-brand French Silk pies
- Steak-N-Shake steakburgers
- Jerry’s J-Boy steaks
As is often the case on the bus I ride, there was a beautiful young downtown St. Paul nonprofit worker sitting next to me. She wasn’t peering over into my lap, exactly, but she was glancing at my list, as you inevitably do when you’re in such close quarters and someone is writing big loopy script next to you. Maybe I was just imagining this, but I thought she looked a bit horrified.
It occurred to me she might have thought I was making a shopping list, and if this was a shopping list, it would be the most hilariously pathetic shopping list imaginable, especially for a grown man that is clearly in his early- to mid-30s.
I thought maybe I should explain myself, but decided against it. If she wants to think I am
hoarding filling up my pantry with Hostess fruit pies and Vanilla Coke, I guess there’s worse things for people to think.
Come to think of it, I hope she nicknamed me “Fancy Cakes” in her head, because that is a pretty good nickname. “Here comes Mr. Fancy Cakes,” she might think to herself whenever I board the bus.
9th November 11
This May, when Robert Caro’s fourth volume of his now-five-part Lyndon Baines Johnson biography is released, that’s going to be me up there, camped out overnight outside my local booksellers, dressed in a costume with a bunch of other nerds, except we will all be dressed like Coke Stevenson, Lady Bird Johnson, and Sam Rayburn instead of wizards, because Robert Caro’s The Years of Lyndon Johnson is my Harry Potter.
I’m not joking, either (about camping outside a bookstore in a costume, or those books being my Harry Potter). The Caro LBJ books are probably, all things considered, the best I’ve ever read. If they’re not the best, they’re certainly the most immersive. I read the first three in a crazed several month period beginning last December and ending up around April, a period during which I read nothing else (one of the pleasures of a quiet 40-minute one-way bus commute is eighty minutes a day of reading time, interrupted by nothing except occasional attempts to flirt with whatever downtown St. Paul nonprofit workers might be seated next to me — and believe me, nothing gets a downtown St. Paul nonprofit workers feeling reciprocally flirtatious like a blindingly handsome arts administrator reading a 700-page book about Lyndon Johnson). Caro’s attention to detail is so complete that anytime in the narrative Lyndon Johnson meets a person that’s going to play some sort of major role in his life, Caro will back up and spend a few chapters examining that person’s life prior to the point they met Lyndon Johnson — at least a hundred pages, in some cases.
So what this means for you, the reader, is that you’re drawn into this pattern of reading about LBJ, then reading about people, places and events that are not LBJ, for very long stretches of time, then finally arcing back around to find out how LBJ responded to these people, places and events.
LBJ ruled my imagination so thoroughly in the months after I finished the third volume, and this LBJ-not-LBJ pattern was so well established, that with every book I read afterward — every book not about LBJ, whether nonfiction or fiction — I was still, subconsciously, reading with the expectation that anything I was encountering was simply a set-up for enabling me to better understand how Lyndon Baines Johnson might interact with it. So I’d be reading some fictional novel, about character living in the present day that had nothing to do with Texas in the 1940s, and in the back of my mind, I’d still be chuckling to myself, “Oh boy, Lyndon’s not going to like this guy one bit. I can’t wait to see how totally he is going to flip his shit when they get together in another fifty pages.”
My point is, I’ll see you outside Magers & Quinn this spring. I’ll be wearing a Pappy O’Daniel costume.
2nd August 11
August is here, which means it is time once again for Common Room at The Soap Factory, now in its third blockbuster year! Sergio and I have changed the format slightly since last time, so click through to read more. We have an actual website now!
Or there’s also some information on The Soap Factory’s website.
You can see what sort of things went on during Common Room 2009 and 2010, as well.
8th April 11
“Now this cat’s house was full of photos on the wall of Bird, Trane, all of them. He’s the best saxophone technician in the Midwest, for sure. But he’s got a big photo of Sonny Rollins right in the middle of the living room. And I say, ‘Man, Sonny Rollins, he’s my idol.’ And he says, ‘Well, yeah, I knew him, back in Chicago. He used to blow with Babs Gonzalez, who I knew. Babs passed away in ‘80.’ And so anyway, while we’re talking, the phone keeps ringing. And I say, ‘Man, why don’t you answer the phone.’ And he says, ‘Man, I don’t want to talk to nobody right now.’ And so the answering machine picks up, and I hear, ‘Man, pick up the phone, I know you there, it’s Sonny.’ And I say, ‘Shit, man, is that Sonny Rollins on your phone?’ And he says, ‘Yeah, yeah. Man, I talked to him this week already. Why’s he always callin’?’ So I say, ‘You pick up that phone, man! You pick up the phone if Sonny Rollins is callin’!’ And so he does, and he puts me on, and I say, ‘Is this Sonny Rollins?’ And he says, ‘Yeah, yeah, man.’ And I didn’t even know what to say, because the guy’s my idol, you know? And then my friend says, ‘Man, gimme that phone.’ And him and Sonny talk. And that’s the time I talked to Sonny Rollins.”
From an overheard conversation between two apparent jazz musicians sitting in front of me on the 21A this morning. I am pleased to report that jazz musicians have the exact same kinds of conversations you’d hope that they would. This isn’t verbatim, obviously. But it’s pretty close.
14th July 10
I somehow missed Annotations’ touching account of the last time I ran into him that he posted earlier this week — in case you did, too, click through for the whole thing. It has all my favorite elements for a good narrative: non-traditional transit methods, winter, a party, feelings, geographic name-checks, bro-tastic camaraderie, magazines and nostalgia.
The article is entitled “The Silver Lining,” and real the silver lining is that I can give this thing back to Andy now. Because I am the guy who returns your torn magazines.
You sure are, Mike. I thank you, and I can’t wait to see what I missed.
Also, if memory serves, the party wasn’t very good. It was a lot of college kids, and not the good kind, either.
6th January 10
SOUTH MINNEAPOLIS TRANSIT GRAFFITI TURF WAR FACE-OFF: Draughtsman vs. Coxswains.
The BOATS tag was photographed on a bench in the heated bus shelter on Lake Street by the Hiawatha LRT station. I’m just guessing it’s coxswains that have done this. It could be midshipmen, windjammers, yachters, scullers or tarpaulins, too, I suppose. Who else celebrates the use of boats? There aren’t a lot of boats in South Minneapolis. Boats are an Uptown thing; that’s where all the lakes are. Although there are always flocks of really noisy seagulls hanging around the Lake Street Target parking lot. I’ve never understood that.
The PANTOGRAPH HANDLE sticker tag was photographed over a door on a southbound Hiawatha LRT. Again, I’m guessing it’s draughtsmen that have done this. Who else celebrates the use of the pantograph? I thought at first the sticker meant “pantone handle,” as in, “my pantone handle is 101 C” (roughly the color of the inside of the LRT trains) and it was a designer joke I’d pretend to be hip enough to understand but would email Erik when I got home and ask him to explain for me. “Pantone handle” actually sort of makes sense, in this context, but a pantograph is something else entirely.
A pantograph is, as I’m sure you know, “a mechanical linkage connected in a special manner based on parallelograms so that the movement of one specified point is an amplified version of the movement of another point. If a line drawing is traced by the first point, an enlarged (or miniaturized) copy will be drawn by a pen fixed to the other.” So says Wikipedia. In fact, I once worked in a store that sold pantographs, for six years. In all that time, no one ever bought even one.
Is this one of things like the Conrad star fiasco, where everybody knows exactly what BOATS and PANTROGRAPH HANDLE means, and I’m the only one in the dark? I hope not, because I really like the idea of roaming gangs of coxswains and draughstmen tagging the train platforms and bus stops of the southside.
14th December 09
College girl #1:
So Betsy's having a guest over at the dorm tonight.
College girl #2:
College girl #1:
Da-a-a-a-a-an. Dan the man.
College girl #2:
College girl #1:
Dan. Dan the man.
College girl #2:
Which one is Dan the man again?
College girl #1:
He's the man one.
College girl #2:
30th November 09
Stephanie, over at your favorite New Jersey-based tumblelog I Can See New York City from My House, has re-posted an anecdotal comment I left on an earlier post of hers about the great Steve Prefontaine. I now re-re-post it here so that it is formally entered into the record:
I was once on the train wearing a Prefontaine t-shirt, a tasteful portrait in red, and some guy asked me if it was my son. I beamed and said “It sure is, sir, and I am so proud of him.” He said “God bless, that’s beautiful.”
How old did that guy think I was, I wonder? I suppose when you pass retirement age anyone under 40 looks the same.
The obvious opportunity I missed is telling the man that I was proud of my son for the specific reason that he once held the American record in the 10,000 meter and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 19. My beautiful son!
Also, it was Katie that made me the t-shirt in question. This is what the portrait looks like, except in red. Who wouldn’t want that fiery, free-spirited hunk of 1970s vintage young manhood springing forth from their loins?
14th November 09
- The couple biking east down Lake in identical matching South Minneapolis Autumn Fixie-Riding Uniforms (head-to-toe skintight red flannel)?
- The blond party girl in the seasonally inappropriate but absolutely mesmerizing shimmering black retro silver-spangled Edie Sedgewick minidress staggering towards the northbound LRT platform in stilleto heels?
- The surprisingly young-looking Minneapolis cop at the Stop and Shop at 18th Avenue whose attire seemed to be a deeply felt homage to Seth Rogen in Superbad, right down to what actually appeared to be a puka shell necklace?
- The handsome, forlorn-looking Mexican man, also at the Stop and Shop, in the Don Henley-style unbuttoned mustard denim shirt and white cowboy hat and a mustache that split the difference between Tav Falco and John Waters?
- The Somali teenager in the deerstalker cap and ’70s-style tuxedo t-shirt that walked past me at 13th Avenue?
ANSWER: Number 5, no contest. That kid was awesome. Where do you even get those t-shirts anymore?