Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring, Snow, and Moving Issues for the Sinclair Lewis Foundation: Chamber of Commerce, Too

Wednesday, March 31, 2010. I think spring is here for real. Of course, this is Minnesota: and it wouldn't be unheard of for us to get some more snow. Not terribly likely, though.

You may remember this photo, taken about two weeks ago, and shown in the March 21, 2010, entry. March 18, 2010.

Same scene, just over 10 days later. There's a little of the snow left: but not much. March 29, 2010.

I don't know that it's a sign of spring: but Sauk Centre has reminders out near several crosswalks. It's a state law to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. It's also a good idea, I think. Almost all of us are pedestrians now and again: and if we don't stop when we're driving, how can we expect drivers to stop when we're walking? Or rolling, as the case may be.

Hard to miss: I hope. March 29, 2010.

There's the flip side, of course: Sauk Centre is still small enough for folks to think jaywalking is a good idea. I haven't had any near misses yet this year: but I haven't been out as much as I have been some previous years. Me? I've jaywalked a few times: but these days I think the benefit/risk ratio favors using the crosswalk. I haven't had the experience, but I'd think it would be downright inconvenient to get punted by a car.

The street sweepers are out: those Elgin units have been going up and down the streets in my neighborhood, dealing with a winter's worth of sand and grit.

An Elgin street sweeper, roaring along. March 31, 2010.

This week's Sauk Centre Herald has an article about the Sinclair Lewis Foundation: "Left in Limbo?" That building down by the Interstate has been their home since before my family moved to town, some two decades back. Since the city has decided to sell the land, they need to move. (I wrote about this on Sunday.)

So does the Chamber of Commerce.

The Sinclair Lewis Foundation is in a pickle. They doesn't have a backup facility to move into. And they don't have enough money to move, anyway. That Interpretive Center isn't the sort of thing you can pack up and move in the back of a pickup.

The Herald's opening sentence was suitably dramatic: "The city council's decision to sell the land that houses the Interpretive Center has drawn the ire of some who think preservation of history is more important than financial growth."

I'm going out on a limb a little with this, but here's a thought: Instead of just getting irate, how about doing something about the situation? From what I read, the really big issue is that the S.L.F. doesn't have enough money to cover moving.

Helping them to get the interpretive center set up somewhere else isn't, I think, quite the same sort of priority as the Haiti fundraisers earlier this year were. But the way we gave to help Haiti survivors demonstrated that folks in this area can pitch in when there's a need.

Moving is expensive, but a little upwards of 4,000 people live in Sauk Centre. and if each of us gave, on average, a few dollars - you get the idea.

I checked earlier today, and this is the current mailing address for the Sinclair Lewis Foundation. As far as I know, they haven't started passing the hat: but maybe you could help get them started.

Sinclair Lewis Foundation
PO Box 25
Sauk Centre, MN 56378
No pressure, but I can think of worse ways to spend a few bucks.

The Chamber of Commerce has to move, too. Not this week, but I'd be surprised if that property isn't sold before too many months pass. The Chamber of Commerce may not be in quite the same fix that the S.L.F. folks are in: but they've had a really nice location there, and probably won't get the sort of walk-in traffic they've had after they move. That's too bad, because I think they've done a pretty good job of letting folks coming into town know what visitors can do, besides drive straight through.

I'll get off my soapbox now. And like I said, no pressure.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Palm Sunday, Sale of Land, Veteran's Facility

Sunday, March 28, 2010. Palm Sunday: the start of Holy Week. For my household, this is a pretty big deal. It's been a pretty big weekend for us, too: we had the Easter family get-together here on Saturday.

It's also getting close to 'tax time:' April 15. I'm still getting over my marathon preparation session last weekend.

Good news, in the Sauk Centre Herald. From my point of view, anyway. The city council gave that veterans facility the okay to use the old Home School property on Sauk Centre's north side. I've written about this before.

The other item in the paper is probably good news, but I've got mixed feelings about it. Looks like the city's selling that 4.1-acre parcel of land that the Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center is on. Chamber of Commerce offices are there, too: and I suppose it's the land that the park and the 'little red schoolhouse' is on, too.

I'll be sorry to see that picnic area go, and hope that the Chamber and the historical displays find good homes: but I've got to admit that it makes a whole lot of sense to let that land be developed for something commercial.

Meanwhile, it's springtime, Minnesota style: I need to get out tomorrow anyway, and plan to check around to see if there's snow left on the ground in spots. Some of those piles were big.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sauk Centre Streeters, Spring, and Tom Sawyer Clones

Wednesday, March 24, 2010. Okay, so the Streeters didn't come out first at state. I wasn't there, so what I know is what I read in the papers. If you live in Sauk Centre, you've probably read what the Sauk Centre Herald had to say. There's a pretty good write-up in the St. Cloud Times, too, dated March 18, 2010.

Sure, it would have been nice to come out first in the Class 2A state tournament. But in my book, getting from the gym at Sauk Centre High School to Williams Arena? For the first time? Yeah, I'd say that was a big deal.

Let's take a closer look at that sign. March 24, 2010.

I like that. March 24, 2010.

Meanwhile, winter has been melting. The flowers in one yard on the north side are already in full bloom. Of course, they were all winter, too. They're "permanent" flowers. That kind I think even I could take care of.

This is one of my favorite front yards: it's enthusiastic. March 24, 2010.

At least one household is going through the annual rite of putting screens on the windows.

Sure sign of spring: screens propped against the wall. March 24, 2010.

Last week I wrote about small town America's image as a sort of Brigadoon, idyllic islands untouched by reality. There's a sort of flip side of that stereotype: Small town America as cesspools of hatred, ignorance, prejudice, and inadequate dental hygiene.

Mayberry, RFD and Harper Valley PTA are pretty good examples of those two views of the sort of place I call home. Do I really need to say it? Neither one is particularly accurate.

I've written about this before: "Small Town America: Beyond the Tom Sawyer Clones" (December 10, 2009) and "Thucydides, Al Tingley, Myth and Me" (September 2, 2009).

I don't know about 'gritty reality,' but we do have large pressure tanks in odd places. That's somebody's house, behind the tank. March 24, 2010.

Also a week ago, I wrote about contemporary technology and small town America. We're fairly up-to-speed, actually, when it comes to our infrastructure. What we don't have, generally, is Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, or Von Maur stores. I suppose that contributes to the impression some folks have, of small towns being backward.

Sauk Centre, however, does have a WalMart supercenter. Which isn't quite the same thing. And Meads, downtown, is a pretty good clothing store.

Marian garden, Our Lady of the Angels church. March 24, 2010.

Technology is important: but I think the folks who live in towns are what make the difference. We're not Tom Sawyer clones, here in small town America: which is just as well. He wasn't real.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Melting Snow and a Crazy Weekend.

Sunday, March 21, 2010. April 15 is coming up, and I've been scrambling to collect and organize the tax information that I'm responsible for. On Friday, I thought I still had nine days. That afternoon my wife reminded me that I had to have everything ready. By the morning of the 22nd.

Well, I was only off by one week. It's been a crazy weekend: but I'm pretty sure I'll have everything ready by sunrise.

Normally, I'd write about a thing or three that I'd noticed in or around Sauk Centre since the last entry. I hope you'll settle for some photos. That's about all I've got. I should have my ducks in a row by Wednesday. (Famous last words?)

I figured I'd see snow: I didn't realize how much. It's the storage service at the west end of Sinclair Lewis Avenue. March 18, 2010.

More snow: that building makes a pretty good sunshade. March 18, 2010.

I've seen folks shovel snow onto sunnier parts of the lawn. This year, that might more sense than usual. March 18, 2010.

Not exactly scenic, is it? I figure that after the snow's melted, a good raking or two, rain, and growing grass should take care of the dirt left behind. March 18, 2010.

A delightfully funny - and strange - lawn decoration. March 18, 2010.

Civic Arena playground. March 20, 2010.

Yes: Those are eggs in the smoke. March 20, 2010.

I'm really looking forward to Monday this week. For once, it'll be the day I can relax.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Wednesday, March 17, 2010. Happy St. Patrick's Day! And a fine one it was: only a few wisps of cloud in the sky, snow gone (for the most part), and it may be my imagination, but I think there was a bit of spring in the air.

I've heard that the Streeter girls' basketball team is going to state. And read about it in this week's Sauk Centre Herald. The headline was at the top of the front page, with a photo going across about three quarters of the paper. The Herald explains why this is such a big deal:
They did it. The Streeter girls' basketball team made it through the section
playoffs with wins over New London-Spicer and Staples-Motley last week to
advance to their first state tournament in the school's history.
That's the first paragraph of the store. There's a bit more online, and the whole thing in the print edition.

Daylight Saving Time struck again this weekend. The 'jet lag' aspect of it hit me particularly hard this time: it may have been more than just the time change. I've wondered if the 'spring forward, fall back' thing is still done because 'we've always done it this way.' I harangued about that in one of my blogs: "I'm Blaming Daylight Saving Time: or, Not," Drifting at the Edge of Time and Space (March 17, 2010).

I didn't do a thorough survey of Sauk Centre this week, but the places I did see were snow-free. Judging from past experience, there's probably still snow in a sheltered spot or three on the north side of buildings - or, outside Sauk Centre, on the north side of stream banks.

Looking east across the Sauk River. Snow, no. Water, yes. March 17, 2010.

Quite a lot of the snow is still around, disguised as water. Happily, we haven't had flooding problems yet. That I've heard of.

A mess, definitely. Toxic? Good question. March 17, 2010.

On the whole, I like the way Sauk Centre looks. It's not one of those picture-postcard museum towns, where everything looks just like it did in the 'good old days:' Which is just as well: since we're in the 21st century; and the good old days weren't all that hot.

I'd probably be more nostalgic if my memory was worse.

One lot on south Birch Street is a bit of an eyesore, even by my flexible standards. It's the place where a house burned last year. (February 10, 2010, November 25, 2009 and September 20, 2009) With the snow cover off, you can see the debris. The last I heard, one of the neighbors there wanted the mess cleaned up. She apparently was concerned about asbestos wafting over from the wreckage.

I think she may very well have a point.

There are pretty good aesthetic reasons for cleaning that lot up, too. I doubt anybody really wants the piles of stuff to be left there: the question is probably who's going to pay to get the job done.

Old-fashioned? Actually, yes. March 17, 2010.

I've written before, about the impression some folks seem to have about 'small town America:' a sort of Brigadoon, cut off from the world, where the kids are clones of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and everything is just the way it was in the late 19th century.

Well, there's something to it. Quite a few of the buildings downtown date from around 1900. And look the part, now that we've had restoration work done. They do what buildings are supposed to do: keep rain and snow out, comfortable air in, and be a reasonably safe and comfortable place
for folks to live and work.

I suppose it's the principle of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' at work. We don't have all-new buildings downtown because the ones we have get the job done. Besides, the way I see it, with late-19th-century commercial buildings and an Art Deco theater, we've got the best that the last century-plus had to offer.

And it is sort of nice to see 'the way it was.'

It'll be a while before people get nostalgic about antenna farms like the one behind Mainstreet Communications, but I think folks may: after that technology is replaced by whatever comes next. And others will heave a sigh of relief that the things are gone, at last.

Me? I rather like the look of them.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Snow, Sunlight, But Mostly Drizzle and Rain

Sunday, March 14, 2010. It wasn't exactly clear today, around noon: but the sun cast shadows. First time I remember seeing that this week.

And, it's been raining. Also drizzling: and I wouldn't be surprised if it snowed and sleeted a bit. When water wasn't coming down from the sky, it just hung around as fog.

The band shell benches were the opposite of crowded. March 13, 2010.

There's still ice on Sauk Lake, sort of. I wouldn't want to try stepping out on it: it looked mushy near the public boat landing.

This is not the sort of thing you'd expect Explore Minnesota to mention. March 13, 2010.

You might expect Explore Minnesota, the Minnesota Tourism outfit, to try hushing up springtime in Minnesota: or at least ignore it. But at least one photo on their home page was a scene a little like that boat landing one. The sky was more colorful in theirs, though.

Anyway, I doubt we'll be needing shovels or snow blowers again, until maybe late Fall.

Last sight of snow blowers until next winter? March 13, 2010.

The alley between Main and Oak, north of Sinclair Lewis Avenue, is more than a place to set out garbage cans and take deliveries. Unger furniture and a few other places have a sort of second front door in back - and there's been a (very) discount store in a metal-roofed warehouse behind Pride of Main Street Dairy. I knew I forgot to do something yesterday: I didn't check to see if they were open.

This alley is a sort of informal street. Complete with those new old-fashioned street lights. March 13, 2010.

See if you can guess what famous author's famous book put Sauk Centre on the map. Take your time. March 13, 2010.

Food shelf sign at a Coborn's entrance. Good idea, I think. March 13, 2010.

That's all for today. I'll be back Wednesday, when there'll be more. Even if there isn't I'll write about something. Maybe the weather.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Melting Snow, Drizzle, and a Band Concert

Wednesday, March 10, 2010. So far this week, it's been overcast, it's rained, and snow has been melting. Hordes of teenagers in cars flowed past my house around 3:00 in the afternoon all three days, and one of the neighbors has cheerful St. Patrick's Day decorations on display. Apart from that, all I know is what I read in the paper.

Like the city council voting to waive billing householders who didn't get snow cleared on schedule, from January 26th to the 29th. to cancel all the billing that went out to city residents for failure to remove snow within a proper time frame between Jan. 25-29. It cost the city $2,352 to have contractors do the job.

Which sounds like a lot. But if my math is right, that means that, on average, each person in Sauk Centre is going to wind up paying about 0.59¢ in extra taxes and fees, somewhere along the line. If it's spread out evenly, my household will have to cough up around $2.36. 2009 was a rough year for us, but I think we can handle that.

And, as the Sauk Centre Herald article pointed out, there was a whacking great amount of snow to move in spots, after the snowfall and drifting. Considering how much the per-citizen cost is, after you spread it out, I think the council's decision was a nice gesture: and an affordable one.

Hats off to these folks, for adding a bit of color to the neighborhood. March 7, 2010.

Another week, and it'll be St. Patrick's Day: Wednesday. Good grief, I had it on Monday, in the last entry. That goof has been fixed. If only all mistakes could be cleared up that easily.

March 8, Monday, the school bands, grades 7-12, gave a concert. It wasn't exactly SRO (Standing Room Only), but considering the weather, I think the turnout was pretty good.

I'd say 'waiting for the curtain to go up' - but they go to the side here, and the curtains are already open. March 8, 2010.

The various bands played quite a range of music: from "The Pink Panther" and "Puttin on the Ritz" to Gustav Holst's Second Suite in F for Military Band. And some pretty good jazz, too.

This was worth walking through a March drizzle: and that's saying something. March 8, 2010.

Part of an AP article on music and language was on the back of the band concert's program: More about that in "Music, Language, and Workarounds for (Some) Stroke Victims," in one of my blogs.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Valley Forge Village in Sauk Centre: Why Was I So Intense?

I got more, ah, intense than I usually do in the last post: "Valley Forge Village in Sauk Centre, Melting Ice and St. Pat's Day is Coming" (March 7, 2010).

Saying, of my household, that "we've been 'unsavory people'...."?

It's not just that my family hasn't lived the country club set's lifestyle. I realize that I was taking opposition to the VFV personally for another reason.

Once again, that's Valley Forge Veteran's Village Project. An explanation of their purpose may help explain the concerns that some of my neighbors felt:
"As the conflict continues in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places, the prevalence of soldiers coming home with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will become a major concern for our society. PTSD is characterized by hyper-vigilance, anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, anger, emotional numbness, paranoia, depression, and insomnia...."
(Valley Forge Veteran's Village Project)
I'm not a veteran. My draft classification was 4-F. I still haven't made up my mind whether that was good news or bad news. I got that classification because I'm a cripple, by the way: and that's another topic.

Many soldiers come home from war without PTSD. Good for them. Some do. Not because they're weak, or bad: but because that's what happened to them. Not everybody is exactly alike. Some handle stress better than others - and some get stressed more than others.

Sure, it's a bit unsettling to realize that 'crazy' people will be living at the old Home School property. Maybe just as unsettling as realizing that you're reading something written by a 'crazy' person.

Still with me?

I was diagnosed with major depression a few years ago. I've been prescribed serotonin uptake inhibitors and another drug to keep anxiety under control. That did for my brain what artificial hip sockets did for my legs: gave me a reasonable facsimile of normal function.

How do I feel about taking drugs to keep my brain working right? The same as I do about having to wear glasses to drive: it's an imperfection that I deal with, part of being alive. If anything, I'm glad that all I have to do is swallow tablets at prescribed intervals to function normally.

The way I see it, I'd be crazy to stop taking them.

Related posts:

Valley Forge Village in Sauk Centre, Melting Ice and St. Pat's Day is Coming

Sunday, March 7, 2010. Back to Valley Forge Village, the old Home School property on Sauk Centre's north side, and making use of the place.

The last time I wrote about the Valley Forge Village proposal - in fact, I think the only time I wrote about it - was July 16, 2009. At that time, I'd read in the Sauk Centre Herald
"that something called the Valley Forge Village Project is proposed for the Minnesota Correctional Facility/home school/whatever up on the north side, east of the golf course.

"Reading the Herald's discussion of 'nay saying' and concerns about 'unsavory' people moving in, I did a little checking around. The Valley Forge Village Project is a proposal by the Patrick McCaffery Foundation. The organization's writeup on the project says that they're trying to help vets make the transition between active service and civilian life: '...The primary focus will be on reintegration to family and society in general, family counseling, job training, as well as a retreat for rest and relaxation....'..."
This week's Herald's article says that Valley Forge Veteran's Village is "a veterans transitional housing project". Well, I suppose that would involve "unsavory people." Certainly not upper crust.

I don't have quite the horror of "unsavory people" that I might. Maybe because my family and I have been lived through a few hard times. Judging solely on the household income and the grandeur of our living arrangements, we've been "unsavory people."

Maybe that's not what the person who was quoted last year quite had in mind.

Anyway, From the sounds of it, the Valley Forge Village proposal still makes sense. And, unless something unforeseen comes up, they'll be opening up this summer.

Links to the Valley Forge Veteran's Village Project and their Oak Ridge page.

Springtime in Minnesota isn't about chirping birds, unless you count the overhead honks of Canada geese, and blooming flowers. On the other hand, if you look around there are wonderful sculptures of melting snow and ice.

That bit on the left is a shell, curved like a car's windshield. March 3, 2010.

A touch, and that would crumble. March 3, 2010.

Can't say I'll be sorry to see summer, but I'll sort of miss sights like this. Well, there's next year.. March 3, 2010.

The next big-deal holiday is St. Patrick's Day, a week from Monday. A neighbor has a display up - but I'll save that until the next entry.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Cards, Melting Snow and Valley Forge

Wednesday, March 3, 2010. The snow is still melting. At this rate, I'll be putting away my winter coat soon. After which we'd probably have a record cold wave.

St. Patrick's Day cards: That I was expecting. The Easter stuff, no so much. It's the next big holiday, of course. March 3, 2010.

I'm not surprised: The ice must be pretty soft. March 3, 2010.

I'm not a big fan of wading through ice water, but I enjoy seeing the ephemeral sculptures made by sunlight and melting snow.

My guess is that they're pointing at where the sun is, around midday. March 3, 2010.

Just a pile of melting snow? March 3, 2010.

Take a closer look: there's a sort of delicate, lacy ice here. March 3, 2010.

I see that something called Valley Forge Veterans Village may be moving into the hold 'home school' facility on the north side. But it's getting late, so I'll write about on Sunday.