Monday, December 10, 2012

snow day.

yeah.  that's my kid.  she loves snow.

So, last post I was bemoaning the lack of snow in Minnesota this winter.  Maybe someone heard me because now we have around 14 inches of it in our yard.  It's beautiful, as the first and usually second snows of the winter are.

And now tonight its going to drop below zero, Fahrenheit.  It's almost there already and it's not even that late.

our/neighbors' yard.  instant winter wonderland
The combo of fresh snow and really cold temperatures has made the streets really slick- and, of course- on the night that made the absolute most sense to stay in and go absolutely nowhere, we had to go somewhere, and be there on time.

Gita lost her wallet on the bus on the way to the grand opening of the renovated Union Depot (pictures below) in downtown St. Paul this Saturday, and wanted to get it back from the Metro transit lost and found office, just outside of downtown Minneapolis.  The office closes at 5:30 and we had to get there during rush hour traffic.  If we had done it on Saturday, it would have been a quick drive there and back.  But tonight, it was a different story.

We all got dressed up and belted into the car and headed out into the craziness.  I had to drive, because Gita didn't have her license, but she had to be there to claim her wallet in person, and of course we couldn't leave the kids alone, so we all had to go, in the rush hour traffic, on ice, to the lost and found office.

I didn't count how many cars we saw stalled in the middle of intersections, or being dug out on the side of the street, but there were a lot.  We almost got stuck on the way home, stalling out as we had to stop at a red light on a slight uphill incline.  No matter how gently I stepped on the accelerator, the wheels spun and we went nowhere.   Actually we went backwards and started to slide sideways.

Then some college students spontaneously ran from the curb and started pushing us- and guiding us to the right lane, where the ice wasn't as worn down and slick.  I don't know who they were- but I sure appreciated them.  And I appreciated living in a place where complete strangers would help push my car up an icy hill. 

That's the sort of community that you can't buy.  Icy streets are no fun, but knowing that there are people who are willing to help out when a stranger needs it warms my heart.  And makes me more willing to help someone when I see them needing it.

the new st. paul union depot

Also- we got Gita's wallet back.  The cash was gone, but the credit  cards were all there.  Not too bad, considering it was lost on a bus in a sketchy part of town.

It makes me feel like my town- St. Paul is a pretty resilient community.  That there's a sort of capital- social capital- that can't always be found where

restored beautifully
there's an abundance of the other kind of capital.

Not that St. Paul is necessarily a poor  place- it's not.  It's somewhere in the middle.  But wealthy in human kindness, at least for a city.

Also- St. Paul has, as mentioned above, been endowed with another beautifully restored landmark as of this weekend- the Union Depot.  We had a chance to tour it this Saturday- and it lived up to our expectations.  It's a gorgeous building, typical of public buildings built in the 1920's- spacious, dignified, and made from quality materials that were expected to last a long time.

Contrast that with the current depot, built in the 1980's and already shabby and worn out.  I don't have a photo, but if you've been to a Greyhound station, it's not all that different. 

I saw an article about the new depot's opening in the local paper, and in the comment section, predictably, a few 'taxpayer advocates' were criticizing the renovated depot as a waste of public money and a misallocation of resources.  The city, state and feds spent about $240 million altogether on it.  That, after allocating just under a billion for a football stadium that will charge hundreds of dollars for a ticket to the worst seat in the house.

If restoring a beautiful and historic structure, which is open to the public, and serves a vital function in the community- providing intercity transportation- is a waste- then what is the word to use for the new viking football stadium?  Flagrantly stupid folly of a dying empire spending unearned money on gladiatorial games?  The ultimate salute, in municipal bond form, to the drivers of snowmobiles and monster-truck-rally attendees?

Unlike the 1980's Amtrak Depot, built around the same time, the current stadium- the metrodome- still looks pretty good and works pretty well.   Also unlike train depots, there seems to be some unwritten rule that stadiums must be torn down and rebuilt on the public dime every thirty years.  This, apparently to appease the luxury box gods who require more seating each year, lest they choose to move their team to places better suited to such things- like Los Angeles or Oklahoma City or Dubai.

That is to say, I am not very inclined to be kind to those who rant about wasted public dollars on a new train depot, built to last for many lifetimes.  See James Kunstler's blog post published today about the restored community hall in his small town, and the function it has in holding together the life of the community.  Buildings built to last, and built to be both beautiful, and a gathering place for real people are an important part of a community's social fabric.  An oversized glass yurt built to be torn down and replaced again in 30 years isn't.

My guess is that there won't be much football being played in the new yurt in 30 years.  I imagine that I'll see the end of professional sports in my lifetime- at least on the scale that they exist now.   That the steep slope of Hubbert's curve will mean that spending lots of money to watch others play a game will no longer make any sense. 

But people will still be riding trains.  And appreciative of having a dignified and comfortable place in which to wait for them.  Especially on a beautiful, icy, snowy day like this one.

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