I’ll start this post by stating what may be pretty obvious to you by now: Twenty sixteen has been one crappy year for everyone, and it’s only July. I mean, it feels like a non-stop stream of distressing or just plain bad news is hitting us: Politics (*yuk!*), controversies (*ugh*), those admired by everyone leaving this world (*sob*). Oh, and not to mention a few tragedies, including those that have occurred of late here in the United States. I won’t rehash any of the three truly terrible incidents from last week as we all know by now, thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, what happened. I will say, though, that the acts were truly horrific, that they have aroused passions and raised issues that are hard to ignore, and that they never should have happened the way they did. (Seriously, must everyone always panic?)
What I will do in this post is ponder not so much the nature of an event but the spot on which an event occurs. I’ll start by asking you to do this: Mentally pick, if you will, any geographic spot you frequently walk/drive/bike/run past on any given day. The odds are that your mind doesn’t wander too much toward what might have happened in the past on that location. A billion different things could happen there, really: Doors opening and closing, friends meeting friends, people helping strangers, kids playing, someone waiting for a bus.
But think of that same spot and ponder something serious happening there: A major fire. A robbery or burglary. An accident. Or, say, an incident involving law enforcement. Remembering something that happened at that spot — and the passions and emotions that can be stimulated as a result — can change one’s perspective about that spot, perhaps permanently. Many of us in Madison can empathize as we can’t shake (or don’t want to shake) that “oh, it happened there” feeling whenever we drive past that apartment house on Willy Street where an officer shot and killed an unarmed kid in March of last year.
The past week found me changing my perspective about a spot that was a big part of last week’s news… actually, I must admit more of the street on which it occurred than the spot itself. to be perfectly clear, it is not my intention with this post to trivialize the incident or its aftermath; I just want to communicate what I felt upon hearing the news in addition to thinking about how tragic and awful the incident truly was.
I’ll start this tale by referring you to this post, in which I mentioned spending a year in the Twin Cities for some vocational training. The campus (if you can call one city block a campus) is in the northwest corner of St. Paul. (I’ll mostly use present tense here since all these locales are still where they were when I was there in the late 1980s… although most of them look quite different now then they did back then.) Up the road from the campus is a suburb called Roseville, where quite a few prominent shopping locales can be found, and where I would walk up to most every Friday when I got a pass to leave the campus. HarMar Mall was the spot I frequented the most, as it was an easy half-hour walk from the campus (easy because the side roads I used didn’t carry a lot of vehicular traffic). Across the street from HarMar is a SuperTarget, which is located next to the site of the very first Target department store (I didn’t realize it was the first Target until reading about it online tonight *smacks forehead in amazement*). Further north and across the freeway is Rosedale, which felt pretty swank back then and, judging from from the photos I’ve seen of it lately, still very much so. Yeah, needless to say I loved going to those stores and play the role of mall rat. Needless to say, too that, my feminine side loved checking out the cool fashions I couldn’t buy, since the very little money I had was used for (*sigh*) essentials.
But enough about Roseville and it’s stores. Halfway between my campus and Roseville is a smaller suburb named Falcon Heights. (Yeah, sound familiar, everyone?) There are two main traffic arteries in Falcon Heights, the north/south road being Snelling Avenue and the east/west road Larpenteur Avenue. (That last street name sound familiar to you too?) Where Snelling and Larpenteur meet is one bustling location. I remember having to navigate the crosswalks at that intersection, especially having to bee line across in order to beat the “walk” sign turning to “don’t walk,” especially when walking to my off-campus work experience period.
I mention walking as I walked west on Larpenteur Avenue most of the time to my work experience site. The further I walked from the intersection with Snelling Avenue, the more nondescript the area around Larpenteur seemed to be: A couple of small businesses, one or two small apartment complexes, farming parcels used by the University of Minnesota’s agricultural school, remote parking for the State Fair grounds… and an intersection of Larpenteur Avenue and Fry Street.
Larpenteur Avenue and Fry Street? Oh, goodness…
Let me circle back to that above thought about going past a spot and not dwelling too much about all that may have gone on there. Now, I haven’t been to the Twin Cities in several years. It’s been almost three full decades since I’ve had my vocational training there. And it’s been just as long since I last walked past that intersection. But here in July 2016, when I heard the news of that awful incident last week in Falcon Heights… on that intersection that I walked past so many times way, way back when… well, let’s just say there’s now a big note in permanent ink on the spot of my memory that’s devoted to that suburb and that intersection…
Larpenteur Avenue and Fry Street? That’s where someone lost his life in a truly tragic incident.
I’ve been hoping that one of these years, I’ll venture back to the Twin Cities on a vacation or business or whatever. Perhaps I’ll drive past or visit a few of the places where I used to frequent while I spent my year in that area. Perhaps I’ll stop by HarMar or Rosedale and see how much they’ve changed. I don’t know if I’ll get the chance to drive down Larpenteur Avenue. But if I do, and if I go past Fry Street… well, let’s say that despite not being at that spot in years, I’ll never recall it in the same way again. Just as very many Madisonians will never forget what happened at a certain spot on Willy Street, many in Falcon Heights, if not all of the Twin Cities, will also never forget the tragedy on Larpenteur and Fry.