Vera’s death was just last December, and I am missing her on this May evening, as our forty-third anniversary approaches. I need time and space by myself, to think. A view of the Mississippi River twisting and turning sharply, as I am right now, would set the tone. A drink and something good to eat would be nice—a martini, a very good steak, a favorite after-dinner drink.
In April 2009, my wife and I lost our house, then I decided to be homeless, and being depressed didn’t help things. This was a year from hell. Then I met some angels in the skyway of downtown Saint Paul. I did research and found out about the Dorothy Day Center. I stayed there at night, and I met some people I liked. Lindsley was someone I could talk to about religion and baseball—he was the first person to give me hope that things would get better. It was there that I learned a lot about people like myself who are homeless. I got to see that a lot of them are pretty caring people and very intelligent. They’re people just like you and me.
Downtown Saint Paul is rarely accused of being exotic. But hidden right in its midst is a thriving, bustling microcosm of the great wide world. I’m talking about Seventh Place. Only one block long, Seventh Place is Saint Paul’s answer to European pedestrian-only city centers. From the golden entry archway facing St. Peter Street to the frequent bustle of the Wabasha pedestrian crossing, the patterned brick underfoot lifts its denizens out of the workaday world and transports them to an old city square in Nordic Europe, or on days when the farmers’ market is in session, to Southeast Asia.
It was dinnertime. Well, actually, it was ten o’clock at night and my mom had just finished a big show. I was hungry, cranky, and tired. “Mom, I’m hungry, where are we going to eat?” I mumbled and growled at the same time. “We’re going someplace special,” she told me as I cranked up the seat warmers and fell asleep on that cold winter night. It was a short drive and she woke me up and dragged me out of the car.
I’m sure there are many who say they love Saint Paul more than any other place on earth, but for me to say that would be an understatement. That’s because living anywhere outside of downtown Saint Paul would be like being in jail. I live in the heart of the skyway system in downtown, and for me it is freedom. You see, I am both deaf and blind.
The segments could be about any subject we chose—as long as it pertained to Saint Paul. I learned that more than a few of those on hand already had extensive experience as television producers and/or videographers. For complete novices like me, SPNN planned to offer crash courses in video camera operation, lighting, and editing. The classes were quick but comprehensive, and gave me enough confidence to take the plunge into shooting my first video. I submitted my proposal for the project and felt ready to check out the necessary equipment and start filming.
It's 8 p.m. at City Hall and the lights in the mayor's office are still on. He sets down the stack of reports he's been reading, glances at the clock in his office, and reaches for his briefcase and keys. It's time to make the rounds. He flips off the lights and walks down the echoing corridors of City Hall to the door. Everyone is long gone.