As always after a trip to the cities, I was relieved and comforted to return home to Sand Creek on Saturday night. However, I did not make such a hasty retreat from civilization as to neglect some of the pleasures the city has to offer. I took the kids to a bookstore and they had about as much fun browsing as I did; I bought a book I had been wanting to read for some time that the local library does not have in their collection. This was perhaps the first book I have bought new in years. Then I braved downtown Minneapolis and thousands of slightly inebriated Gopher and Badger fans, the latter camp celebrating, to make a stop at my favorite liquor store. Why is it my favorite? Sierra Nevada, $9.97 a 12 pack, Two Hearted Ale $6.57 a six pack. At those prices, I can afford to drink better beer than the usual.
With the traffic jam trying to head out along Washington Avenue, I had no hope of jumping on the freeway quickly, so I turned the other direction and escaped Minneapolis right through the heart of the city on Central Avenue going north. I had been thinking about how they recently converted the four lane highway near my parents' house to a full-fledged freeway, tearing out two blocks of houses and a lakeside park in the process, and how much that seemed to change the drive there. The road no longer is a part of the community, but just a high speed vein to bypass it. Do we all need to be that much in a hurry? And what do we miss along the way?
I drove past old industrial complexes, grain elevators, railroad tracks, and Northeast Minneapolis neighborhoods that still seemed to have a life of their own. I had to stop at the stop lights and look at the businesses on the street corners. Cozy bars. Ethnic markets. Coffee houses. People walking, stopping to chat on the sidewalk.
I didn't rejoin the freeway until Central Avenue had given way to miles of strip malls, auto dealerships, and hot rod parts stores. Just get me out of here quickly now that the best part is behind me. I set the cruise control on 69 and watched as nearly every other car passed me. Why? What's the rush? Is this freeway just a competition, like everything else? I glanced out the window occasionally, knowing just where to look to see an eagle's nest, catching a glimpse of my old house on the pond where a pair of loons used to nest. I used to hear the drone of the traffic all night, everyone busy going somewhere.
I only passed one car the whole way back; as I approached from behind I saw a familiar-looking black Escort sedan going just slightly slower than I was. As I passed I glanced and saw my neighbors D & P. I tried to wave, to catch their attention; I don't know if they saw.
When we returned home, weary from the road, The Hermit had a lasagna waiting in the oven (store-bought, but at that point it tasted pretty good). A friend had called, inviting us to a bonfire at his place. We took one case of Sierra Nevada and headed over with the kids. In the cool night air, with a waxing moon shining in the sky, we amazed at the warmth generated by a pile of pine boughs. It was the kind of bonfire where your back is freezing, but your front is blistering, and there's no in between.