Just as the season is about to end, it finally, finally, finally feels like spring up here — no more last bursts of snow as in April, no more dips near freezing as in May.
I celebrated yesterday at St. Paul’s Grand Old Day and Minneapolis’ Open Streets Lyndale, a pair of festivals that shut down miles of major streets and line them with bands, food tents and other booths, like the fellow above with The Bubble Connection from Wisconsin. I was also trying to push myself a little closer to the street photography style of many old and contemporary masters: wide-angle shots, subtle moments, a little mystery, a little goofiness, less reliance on the big action-reaction-emotion rules of photojournalism. I started in St. Paul.
Cleaners with small brooms and buckets wove through the crowd sweeping up wrappers and other scraps. Most were women, old, about a foot shorter than other attendees, decked in neon safety vests and gregarious sun hats and scarves yet hardly noticed. They periodically scattered and regrouped as they strode down Grand Avenue, pausing to admire a booth’s goods here and there or to watch people throw beanbags into toilets on the street to win free plungers. One told me they were Hmong (with a silent H), immigrants from a southeast Asian ethnic group. Several are old enough for retirement, but he said many just like something to do.
After walking about 5 miles up and down one Twin City, I took two buses and a train to Lyndale Avenue near Uptown in the other. I was about worn out; the street dancers, less so.
I like this place a lot more when it’s warm. Thanks for looking.
If you missed the news, I’m now living way up north in the Twin Cities. It’s the biggest move I’ve ever made to the biggest place I’ve ever lived, as I keep telling all my new coworkers and acquaintances. I miss some of Arkansas’ people and places and weather; it’s been gray and chilly for most of my time here so far. Between the storms, I’ve started exploring this place, meeting some of its ducks and lakes, some of its people, its downtown and its Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, for a start.
The FairShare Farm community garden sits a few steps from my fourplex door, so that was one of my first stops. The growing season is obviously winding down, but some of the garden’s regulars tell me I should join the neighborhood clearings and plantings there over the next several months. I can’t turn that down.
This is a nice little corner of Minneapolis, a piece of a metropolitan area with more people than all of Arkansas. There’s a lot of life here, good and bad. Many of the people at the nearby farmers markets and shops originally hailed from the Caribbean, Latin America, Somalia, Russia and southeast Asia. Just south of here, scores of tents line one particular highway exit, and a grocery store keeps its supplies of baby formula and vanilla secure behind the customer service desk with the cigarettes. International flights roar over the wildlife refuge down near the Mall of America.
I’m looking forward to learning about the Twin Cities’ mixtures and contradictions.
Thanks for looking and following along with the journey.
Labor Day weekend brought out the shindigs in Benton County, first with the Frisco Fest in Rogers, then Light Night at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.
The old Frisco Railroad at its height ran from Missouri to Texas to Alabama, and its arrival more than 130 years ago literally put Rogers on the map as an agricultural and passenger hub. Rogers these days is a bit different, not quite the agricultural hub of yore but much bigger and more diverse. The Latino folk dancers were my priority Friday night, but fire dancers and LED hula-hoopers from North Little Rock’s Arkansas Circus Arts and other performers held their own.
Low light and long exposures give the chance to capture something kind of remarkable: a person or thing in its four dimensions, not to get too Slaughterhouse-Five about it. In other words, it’s a nifty way to see movement through space and time. Some things, like that LED hoop making the boxy pattern, can only be seen properly that way. Maybe that’s true of most things, really.
Anyway, I kept thinking about it the next evening at Crystal Bridges, where the annual Light Night seems to be an excuse to play music and make as many kinds of light and color as possible. More fire dancers did their thing in a red-light ring, and traffic filled the road to the event most of the evening. Mars put on its own light show as well, if you can spot it.
My favorite Independence Day memories happened up in Bellevue, Nebraska. My dad and I would go to professional shows, sure, but several years we’d also go walking around the neighborhoods as hundreds of households launched their own pyrotechnics. I remember walking along a street on a hill and seeing the rest of a subdivision laid out below on one side, bursts of sparks continually popping up here and there like whack-a-moles. (A TV station yesterday caught an spectacular version of this in Los Angeles).
Fireworks have plenty of drawbacks, with all of the pollution and anxiety and injuries they can cause for people and other creatures. I still find a lot to love in the pops sounding in every direction as crickets and cicadas buzz and lightning bugs flicker, the haze in the streetlights below the stars, the simple fact that all sorts of people are making their own little contributions to the night’s biggest show. You could hardly ask for more summer than that.
My Fourth of July this year was filled with this sort of amateur celebration, which often makes up for lack of scale with charm and camaraderie. Earlier in the day, I followed a neighborhood parade just a few blocks away from home near downtown Rogers. It’d been a few years since I’d caught one for the holiday.
Thanks for looking, and I hope your holiday was safe and happy.