Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Machinist

[Warning: Today's rambling index is orange.]

Today was one of those rides that start only with a general direction and a possible turning point, with a good half of it covering territory I've never traversed on a bike. These excursions have a way of changing as they go. That's the point.

As a long-time runner and one-time cab driver, I rarely find myself on a totally unfamiliar city street here, though some, like those I covered today, were familiar decades ago.

I didn't start out planning to write about the ride, but the sights along the old routes were too evocative. Storefront churches in buildings going through their umpteenth reincarnation. A used clothing store (Your's) either being closed down or swept out by the next entrepreneur. A Romanesque school building. Two hookers, one strolling, one waiting. Three kids in identical baggy jeans and XXL white tees, the better to avoid identification in the event they have to run and ditch the drugs they're selling.

A string of bars frequented by regulars who keep returning long after they've moved away. Smells from autobody paint booths. Guys in coveralls free of corporate logos claiming the fruit of their labors. A burned out, retired factory worker still wondering what hit him.

A mother with a bandage around the fresh tattoo on her shoulder does an exchange of kids with a woman in another car. They hug before she pulls away.

The burned-down corner where once a music store stood. I bought my first new electric guitar there. The owner told me to make an offer, and when I did, he said, that's too much. Now the basement is filled with black water and a car with its paint scorched off is still behind the rubble, but just as I passed the small building still standing around the corner, a man and a woman were fitting a red and white sign in a boarded-over window.

It said, Tom and Colleen are Back.

Up near 26th and Johnson, not long after passing a non-descript stucco box building with a small generic sign, Geographic Locations International, I couldn't stand it any more. I had to remember these things. I pulled over and went into a clinic pharmacy looking for a pen in its card section. A woman behind the counter asked if she could help me find something, and I said, "Yes. A pen without a big flower on the end." She gave me her pen. "To buy," I said. "Keep it. The drug reps give them to us all the time."

This post is sponsored in part by Bayer and Avelox I.V.

I just Googled Geographic Locations International to try to understand why such an ambitiously named operation would locate in that tiny, obscure place — much less bother to put up a sign. A company by that name sells geological survey markers. I clicked through to Contact Us to see if it was the Minneapolis company, and the address was Minneapolis, all right. But it was not the northeast address I expected. It was the address my company had occupied until last August. I had to read it the three times to make sure I was not mistaken, but yes, that was it, right down to the suite number!

For a moment, I felt like The Machinist, reporting a hit and run by my own car.

It turns out there's an explanation. The company in our old offices runs their e-commerce site. But there's no explanation why I should write down that one name during the course of a two and a half hour ride along many commercial streets.

This is why we need God in the wings, I guess.


Blogger bob said...


On my 40th birthday I was stuck in a heavy snow, unable to get my car up the hill to Hennepin Ave. in South Minneapolis. The woman in the car behind me came up and knocked on my window to see if she could help. It was Gretchen Halvorson, my eighth grade girlfriend. I hadn't seen her for years.

6:11 AM  

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