Sunday, July 3, 2011

Walking Lake Calhoun

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Early evening, 83º, clear skies, perfectly pleasant.… I cannot recall circling this lake during the past 18 months. In many ways, it feels as though those months never happened, but they certainly did. Many relationships changed in those months, some not for the better; but for the first time in my life, I am OK with that.… The lake's water level appears to be higher than it was two and three years ago.… A handful of large trees on the northwest side have toppled, roots and all, probably from Thursday's storm. Two more on the east side, including one that still blocks the bicycle path at the 32d Street Beach.

Gabriel "Gabe" Archangelus, July 4, 2009
Assimilation continues: a number of Somali women retain the long head scarves but show a fair amount of leg.… Not a duck or goose in sight anywhere – nor bald eagle(s).… The weed-cutter that rotates among the city's lakes is stationed in Calhoun right now. With acres of weeds breaking the surface, that machine has a full schedule next week.… A west-side bench provided a restful spot for a woman to surf the web on her phone.… Volleyball games in progress. Frisbees flying. Even a football sailing around.… Halfway round I recalled plans to attend vespers this evening, before realizing it is summer in Minnesota and vespers are on vacation.… I will never understand the logic of wearing saggy pants. If the object is to show off one's butt, just wear your underwear. It's summer in Minnesota and one can get away with that.… Thomas Beach full of swimmers and picnicking, extended families, tables decked in red, white, and blue.… The perfect setting reminded of summer tailgating parties at the old Met Stadium before Minnesota Kicks soccer games.

I do not agree with John Winters, the Minneapolis retiree who wants to change the name of Lake Calhoun. John C. Calhoun was a loud and effective proponent of slavery from South Carolina who served in the United States Senate and as vice president to two U.S. presidents. Calhoun also was Secretary of War when Fort Snelling was established at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers in 1823. First, I never think about Calhoun's politics and career when enjoying our lake. Second, we allowed South Carolina back into the Union following the Civil War (although, one might wonder at times why we did so) and, with malice toward none, as Lincoln suggested, we might choose to set some things aside. Third, if we start down this path of renaming things for reasons of political correctness, where to stop? Fourth, slavery and the war that ended it are painful parts of our history – but they are past. We still have unfinished business with racial relations in the present day. Let's tackle that. For starters, one need look no further than the rainbow of people enjoying together Lake Calhoun's environs on a perfect summer evening.

Unlike in my Stevens Square neighborhood this weekend, not a single firecracker sounds on the entire lakefront.… The sunset is an orange magenta.… Very few canines out tonight. Gabriel ("Gabe") Archangelus used to make these rounds with me. In 2004, we walked the lake together 3-4 mornings a week. However, he was six then and 13 now. His spirit remains willing but his flesh is weak.… Five eastern white pine trees were planted along the eastern shore this year. At six feet tall, each cost $217.50, according to their tags. Give them seven years and they will be soaring.… There seem to be more sailboats at anchor than in the past. In addition to the north side, moorings orient more to the east side this year.… The dispensary at the pavilion has long lines. However, the pricing of food and beverages at Calhoun – and at Lake Harriet two weeks ago – does not appear to my eye as being very family friendly. On the other hand, I would not purchase 10 pieces of shrimp for $12.95 anyway.… The canoe racks near North Beach show four vacancies. One wonders how many canoes are stolen each season with the snip of a chain in the dark of night.

Happy Independence Day.