Preserving historic structures seems to become more important to me the older I become. There is something unnerving about driving around a city where I grew up, like Minneapolis, and not recognizing entire intersections. That's because life goes on without you. No big surprise there. However, if a bunch of buildings and homes have vanished, it's like part of your own life has been erased as well. Because real estate creates memories, and memories validate your life. We are all connected by real estate.
I understand now why my mother used to drag us kids to places like Nankin or The Forum for lunch. Because those restaurants no longer exist. But I had an opportunity to know that experience, something my niece, unfortunately, does not. Almost everything on 7th Street between Nicollet and Hennepin has changed. The Tick Tock Diner where I worked my senior year at South High School is gone. My high school was torn down, too, as 1970 was the last graduating year for that building. Big pages of my life have been ripped out.
So, when it came time to pick a place to meet up with an old friend, Gary, a guy I probably have not seen for more than 40 years, I picked the 12th floor of what used to be Dayton's and is now Macy's. We had lunch yesterday at the Oak Grill. Like with most people who refuse to give up the past just because corporate conglomerates have altered our futures, the 12th floor will always be Dayton's to me. Walking into the Oak Grill is like stepping back to a quieter period, a time without cell phones, jackpot slots or jet-skis. It's reminiscent of leopard-skin pillbox hats.
This is a guy who at the last minute joined a friend from Wayzata and me, and together we hitchhiked to Washington, D.C. in 1969 for the March on Washington. We called him Big Al, based on that character from Laugh In. I recall a day we sat in the Tick Tock Diner. He got the name of Big Al from those old timey salt and pepper shakers that sat in little baskets with sugar packets. This guy would pick up the set by its handle and shake it: Ring that bell.
Gary and I were friends because we shared the same values and core beliefs. It's why we are still friends today. No matter what has gone on in the world around us or how we have been shaped by our past experiences, we are still basically the same people. I can't say that about many of my old friends. Or, it's also entirely possible that they are not the people I had envisioned them to be, and my perception of them was altered by my own expectations. We are all victims of our own realities. Trapped in our own heads.
Which is one of the reasons I begged my husband to take a ride up the Foshay Tower. I had a strong urge to see the view. It used to be free to go to the observation deck. Now it costs $8 a person to take the elevator up to the 30th floor. For decades, the Foshay Tower was the tallest building in Minneapolis, built in the 1920s. You can see all the way to Saint Paul and the St. Paul Fairgrounds. I did not know that Wilbur Foshay had been convicted of fraud, incarcerated at Leavenworth Federal Prison, and then later released by President Roosevelt and pardoned by President Truman.
I do know that people ridiculed Foshay when he decided to build the tower. They thought it would fall over. Called it Foshay's Folly. But there it stands today, dwarfed by some of the newer buildings such as the IDS Tower, which was built around the time they started to film the Mary Tyler Moore show based in Minneapolis. They put a statue of Mary Tyler Moore in front of Dayton's in 2002, just before I left the city for good. I hadn't yet been downtown to see it, something I rectified now, so you can see me with Mary above.
We had dinner last night at The Black Forest Inn, a historic German restaurant in Minneapolis. This place serves enormous quantities of food and a black forest cake with cherries the size of your head. I was almost rolled out into the street. As we passed the photo on the wall, I pointed out the bullet hole in the center to my niece, Laura. This is a photo taken in 1963 at The Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. It is 10 women of the Daughters of the Revolution, draped with sashes. Some doofus for no reason whipped out a pistol one night a long time ago and shot a hole in the picture. My niece looked at me in horror and said, "And you brought us to this restaurant, why?"