Thursday, August 26, 2004

Twin Cities blog-wrap.

Yesterday was Lilly’s first day of first grade. It was also 25 years to the day after I flew from San Antonio to Nashville to begin college at Vanderbilt, so long ago that I flew on Braniff. Synchronicity or mere coincidence? (Coincidence, I think.)

Time to wrap up Minneapolis with some unconnected notes about my recent visit.

I did a fair amount of walking around downtown on this trip, unlike the previous one, when my biggest expedition was to a steak joint called Murray’s around the block from my hotel (see November 9, 2003). Minneapolis has a decent skyline, an impressive stock of buildings older and newer, and a lively enough fussganger – pedestrian street – in the form of the Nicollet Mall.

I wandered into a couple of unusual shops. One, you might expect: Al’s Farm Toys, in the Mall of America. Floor to ceiling, almost, with replica farm equipment. A lot of model tractors, more than a suburbanite (me) would ever imagine existed, at prices he (I) would not want to pay. By contrast, we chanced across another store on the Nicollet Mall, one you might not expect in Minneapolis: Bob Marley Footwear. From the back wall of that store, Bob’s enormous face looks out at the selection of shoes, all of which bear a small likeness of the Rasta-man. This is apparently one part of the Marley family’s cottage industry, based on Bob. Praise Jah!

Despite the gorgeous weather, we also ventured into the city’s Skyway system, a series of overhead tunnels that connects almost every major office and retail building in the Minneapolis CBD, a story or so above street level (St. Paul has an even more extensive system, I’ve read). You can, in fact, traverse most of the downtown in these tunnels, the advantages of which are clear enough considering the long Minnesota winters. But even in August, a lot of people were using the tunnels, which have an infrastructure all their own – retail shops and signage as good or better than on the ordinary streets.

One of my meetings took me into the Pillsbury Center. Sitting on the plaza in front of this building is its name in large metal letters (three or four feet tall), fashioned in the same typeface that the company uses for its products. There should have been, I thought almost immediately, a statue of the Pillsbury Doughboy nearby. But no.

However, a little later I did stand in front of the statue of Mary Richards at the corner of 7th and the Nicollet Mall. It’s a life-sized bronze on a short pedestal, invoking the moment at the end of the introduction to The Mary Tyler Moore Show when that character tosses her tam in the air. A little odd, a statue to a television character, but it makes more sense if you know that it was paid for by TV Land, the Viacom cable channel that shows old shows such as MTM. That channel has been busy in recent years seeding the nation with TV-inspired bronzes, such as Andy and Opie Taylor in Raleigh; Ralph Kramden at the Port Authority bus terminal in Manhattan; and Dr. Bob Hartley here in Chicago.


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