Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

What’s your take on these St. Paul moments? January 4, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:10 AM
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A view of the Minneapolis skyline from Interstate 35 on a light traffic day. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

A view of the Minneapolis skyline from Interstate 35 on a light traffic day. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

SELDOM DO MY HUSBAND and I venture into the Twin Cities.

I abhor the heavy traffic rocketing down the interstate, especially that one crazy driver who weaves from lane to lane.

I detest the Interstate 35W/Interstate 494 interchange, which throws our vehicle into the midst of a dodge ball game. I am not a nail biter. But, at this juncture, I bite my nails as my husband tries to merge into near bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-494 before the right lane ends.

You get the picture. Mostly, we stay out of the metro, unless we need to drive to Fargo where the son attends North Dakota State University or we need to visit our eldest daughter in south Minneapolis or the in-laws, most of whom live north of the metro.

An edited cell phone snapshot of Kellogg Boulevard shot from the skyway into the Xcel Energy Center.

An edited cell phone snapshot of Kellogg Boulevard shot from the skyway into the Xcel Energy Center.

But last Saturday we had to travel to St. Paul for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert at the Xcel Energy Center. I’d rather motor toward St. Paul any day given the traffic (at least when we’ve driven there) in the capitol city seems less rushed, less dense (you can take that word “dense” either way) than in Minneapolis.

A file photo of the stunning Minnesota state capitol in St. Paul.

A file photo of the stunning Minnesota state Capitol in St. Paul.

I also appreciate the less urban feel of St. Paul versus Minneapolis. I expect this assessment, right or wrong, stretches back to my childhood knowledge of St. Paul as the home of the state Capitol and the South St. Paul Stockyards and Minneapolis as the location of the Foshay Tower.

Both of the Twin Cities can be seen in this view taken from the state capitol. You can see the downtown Minneapolis skyline in the distance.

Both of the Twin Cities can be seen in this view taken from the state Capitol. You can see the downtown Minneapolis skyline in the distance to the left. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Alright, I probably should not stir up a battle between the Twin Cities here. That is not my intent. Rather, I want to share a little story from our recent foray into St. Paul. The eldest daughter’s boyfriend lives and works there, so we stopped after the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert to see his apartment and then dine out at Cafe Latte.

That visit to a sprawling apartment complex across from Mears Park brought the first odd moment of the evening. During the elevator ride to the underground parking garage, a young woman stepped inside and promptly pressed herself into a corner, her back to the four of us. I was so stunned by her strange behavior that I remember thinking “What is wrong with her?” and “Should I say anything?” I noticed only her long auburn-dyed locks, her knee-high boots and the paper towels crammed into a plastic bag gripped in her right hand. I never saw her face.

Should I have spoken to her?

The second unusual moment came when we were dining at the Cafe Latte along historic Grand Avenue. While savoring my tasty asparagus chicken stew and smokey turkey pasta salad, I noticed a football-player-sized man peddling M & Ms directly outside the cafe’s front door. Anyone trying to enter Cafe Latte would have to weave around the man blocking the entry. Many diners pulled bills from their wallets. By the time we finished our meal, the mysterious Candy Man had vanished.

Who was this Candy Man? And would you have purchased M & Ms from him?

Finally, on our way back to the daughter’s car, parked in a ramp just off Grand, we encountered a woman who’d been standing inside the ramp entry before we ate. This time, upon our return, she asked, “Can you spare $1.75 for bus fare?” None of us reached into our billfolds.

Should we have given this woman money? How long had she been standing there and how much money had she collected?

Perhaps all of these incidents are common occurrences in the Twin Cities. I really do not know. But for this out-state Minnesotan, the moments were impressionable and, certainly, unsettling.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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