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Saint Paul

Cabin Fever Cure

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The ancients knew what they were about making February shorter than other months. Short as it is, it still seems the longest. Since Christmas with its reds and greens, all we’ve seen are somber browns and grays and blacks and blinding whites. The snow has lost its charm, and all of us, cooped up together for the past two months, have too often lost our tempers. We needed to get out. We needed to renew our faith in the coming of spring with its lush growth and wanton colors.

Saint Paul mercifully provides a place where those weary of winter’s doldrums can refresh their souls. The Como Park Conservatory operates year around, but in February, it’s like water in a desert. We all went yesterday to marinate ourselves in the tropical weather under its glass dome. We breathed the drenched air of the fern room. We saw the stately Christmas palms and the not-so-stately bottle palms. We saw oranges on an orange tree and cacao pods on a chocolate tree and coffee berries on a coffee tree. We saw allspice and red ginger and black pepper. We saw a Panama hat tree, so called because its young leaves are used to make Panama hats.

We always save the best for last, of course, and the best is the Sunken Garden with all the flowers. I like flowers, but I’m not very good with their names. I do fine with marigolds, daffodils, and tulips, but I can never seem to remember cyclamens, rhododendrons, or bromeliads. So, to my chagrin, I can’t remember most of what we saw. All I know is that they were beautiful. There were crimson blossoms sprung from drooping heads that twisted their petals upward as they unfurled. There were star lilies as big as my hand. There were blossoms shaped like tiny vases.

And there were carp in the pond. When the children were young, they would race past the flowers to see the fish, to touch the fish. Certainly, the carp are fascinating: their glittering scales, whiskered faces, and round toothless mouths. Lithe and slippery, they glide over and under one another looking shamelessly for a handout.

After walking through the garden, I sat down on a bench where the winter sun dazzled me. I relaxed. For, lo, the winter is past. The rains are over and gone. Flowers appear in the earth, and the time of singing has come.

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Republicans Come To Saint Paul

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On Sunday, we went downtown to count the police and watch the Republicans gather. We were turned back at two of the parking lots on the west bank of the river where we usually park, but we were allowed to park on Water Street, just south of Harriet Island. We walked into the park where a few workers were putting up tents in preparation for a concert. Rage Against The Machine was going to be playing later.

We walked along the river to Raspberry Island, where we ascended the stairs to the Wabasha Street bridge and crossed into the city. Kellogg Boulevard was blocked off at Saint Peter. There were ten-foot fences and three police officers barring the way. We walked down Saint Peter, turned left at 5th Street and made our way to Rice Park.

MSNBC Video Stage for Keith Olbermann
MSNBC Video Stage for Keith Olbermann

MSNBC had setup a video stage in Rice Park where they were filming some kind of political commentary show. A few people were resting in the shade near the fountain because the day was so hot. It seemed that the people with press tags outnumbered the ordinary citizens out for a stroll. One interviewer with a camera operator was buttonholing people at random. On the west side of the park, all approaches to the Xcel Energy Center were blocked by fences. Police were everywhere. We saw mounted police in full riot gear, down to the face shields covering the eyes of their horses. Nelly was glad to see the horses—she likes horses—, but Belinda was alarmed to see so many police, as if the city of Saint Paul expected some kind of attack.

A Lone Protester
A Lone Protester

We sat on the edge of the fountain watching and waiting. Nothing much happened. A protester came by carrying a sign that read “McCain Votes Against Veterans.” I suppose he was a veteran himself. Another protester carried a sign that proclaimed “9/11 Was An Inside Job.”

It was hot. The fountain was cool.

The Landmark building was all fitted out with bunting and flags. We took some pictures and then headed for home. We got back to the bridge as the sun was going down. The river looked lazy in the golden light. There were Coast Guard boats on patrol and several squad cars went racing by on there way somewhere.

The whole experience was surreal: a celebration of freedom surrounded with systems designed to control crowds and exclude people. I don’t know if Denver was like this, too.

Mississippi River At Sunset
Mississippi River At Sunset
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