A week with the Crosstown

What a week it has been, for an introvert. The mad whirl of social engagements has me quite o’erwhelmed, and I find myself edging stealthily toward the fainting couch. If the week has had a central theme, it’s probably “I hate the 62 Crosstown.”

Not that I’m complaining. I wouldn’t have missed any of this week’s social contacts. I’m just not used to this many in so short a time.

One week ago today, we had the annual Walker Thanksgiving here at Blithering Heights. Everyone was on their best behavior, no fights broke out, and I didn’t ruin the turkey. So no complaints there.

On Monday morning, I drove my brother and his wife to the airport. They were accommodating and undemanding, and the only problem was that it was snowing. Not heavy snow. Quite light, in fact. But the temperature was precisely calibrated to turn that snow to ice under everyone’s car wheels. So we crawled along Highway 62, Minneapolis’ venerable crosstown artery. I’m sure Bob Dylan crawled on 62 in his time, and F. Scott Fitzgerald would have if he’d stayed around town long enough to see the thing built. We were in plenty of time for the flight, but I was late to open the library at work. This is always a distressing eventuality for the students at the Bible school, but as far as I know none of them actually required counseling.

On Thursday, I met a fan for the first time. This wasn’t just any fan, this was…

Well, let’s start with this movie clip, below the fold:

It’s from a highly acclaimed film called “Whiplash” which (so I understand; I haven’t seen it yet personally) is about a high school music student and his sadistic band teacher. The number they’re playing in this climactic scene is an arrangement of the jazz classic, “Caravan.” This particular arrangement was written by one John Wasson, and it was with Wasson I had dinner at Red Lobster on Thursday. Turns out he’s a fan of my novels. He turned out to be an easy dining companion, as he asked a lot of questions, so that I didn’t have to ask many myself. That’s how I like it. It was a pleasure to make his acquaintance. He’s originally from St. Paul, but lives in Texas, and was in town to do a concert called “Merry and Bright” with the musician Charles Lazarus at Orchestra Hall.

Finally, on Friday night I drove down to a town called New Trier (not far from my home town, but I’d never been there before), to enjoy an All You Can Eat fish fry with five of my high school classmates. They get together to do this sort of thing from time to time, and this was my second go.

Once again the 62 Crosstown was my nemesis. End of the week traffic did not so much crawl as accrete. Of course that’s the 62’s job. If the 62 moved along briskly on a Friday night, I think the drivers would still slow down anyway, to gawk at the singular, dog-in-the-nighttime lack of congestion. I arrived “better,” as in “better late than never.”

We were six old guys who didn’t actually have a whole lot in common, except for propinquity 50 years back. But that was enough. We reminisced about people we knew, many of them dead now, and places we knew, many of them demolished or overgrown today. Like all reunions it was a bit of a slap in the face, reminding each of us of his own real age, but it was a fairly jolly time anyway.

Now I’m quite, quite exhausted. Draw me a bath, servants, and bid the musicians strike up soothing airs.

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