Tag Archives: St. Paul

H is for hippocampus

neuron

Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons

The word of the day is ‘hippocampus,’ I told C as we drove home from Whole Foods on a late October afternoon.

Why do you say that? she asked.

I came across the word three times today, I said. First listening to the radio: I heard a song by Hippo Campus, that band you’re going to see in a few weeks. Then I got an email from Hippocampus, a magazine that only publishes essays. And last I got a call from an old friend who works at a foundation, asking me to write a press release about four neuroscientists who just received awards for their research on memory. They all study the hippocampus.  Continue reading

Reveal

bleeding hearts“What are you going to plant in your garden?” asked the physical therapist as he worked the ropy muscles along my spine, a preemptive visit on my part in hopes of avoiding future strains.

“Oh, tomatoes and peppers, carrots and lettuce, something like that,” I said, brushing him off; that’s not what I meant when I told him I garden. Those vegetables that I’ll put straight in the ground from farmers’ market containers and seed packets are not what make me a gardener at all. What I meant, I realized, is that I weed. Continue reading

Stepping on toes

skyway

A skyway connecting two office buildings in Lowertown, St. Paul

Recently I was sitting alone at a skyway-level Caribou in Lowertown St. Paul, drinking a holiday concoction that I never would have ordered if I’d been paying, this drink on the house to encourage my frequent buying habits. I was staring out the window at the glass skyway connecting two office towers, watching white-collar workers drift across the street suspended in air, coatless in their controlled environment. And watching this steady stream of largely undifferentiated, white, middle-aged workers crossing the skyway, I was reminded of standing in a science museum in rural Vermont on a previous sabbatical with my children, observing ants work their way through humid plastic tunnels, oblivious to the humans on the other side of the tube. So it was here too, lightly dressed workers plying the halls of the office towers, oblivious to the winter weather, carrying styrofoam cups of soup with plastic lids and takeout coffee and brown bags of subs and chips, making small talk with their co-workers, always moving, never stopping. Continue reading

Twilight zone shopping trip

20070516_kowalski_market_2What is happening to me? I just went to the grocery store I’ve gone to for years, and I left bewildered. I wonder if this is how visiting Germans feel.

It started when I was biking down my street towards Kowalski’s, and I passed a young girl, maybe 10 years old, jogging on the sidewalk towards me. I glanced at her but didn’t recognize her, so I looked away, but she lifted her hand and waved to me and gave me a big smile. “Whose kid is that?” I thought to myself, but realized I did not know her at all; she was just being friendly. I think I returned the wave from my bike but resisted it; didn’t your mother teach you not to engage strangers?, I wondered. She was overly friendly, perhaps, but then I’ve come to expect that based on my recent dog walks in the neighborhood—my god, we’re a smiley people! Smiling at perfect strangers, exchanging “Good morning!” greetings as if we’d been friends for years, or making offhand comments as we pass, often to the effect of “What a beautiful dog!” or “Gorgeous day, isn’t it?” Continue reading

Tethered by time

Image

Image courtesy of The Guardian

I am aware, always, of what time it is in St. Paul. We are seven hours ahead in Berlin. I sit down to work when most of our friends are going to bed; I sometimes post blogs in the middle of their night’s sleep, and am thoroughly into my work day when they are waking up.

I see them blinking awake via chat on Facebook—I don’t mean to, but in my online grazing I can’t help but notice who rises before dawn and who the night owls are. I’m surprised to find a handful of insomniacs among them.

There was a morning last fall when I saw signs of three rowers’ wakefulness before 5 a.m., and imagined them each heading to the river, and could not avoid a sting of rejection knowing I might have joined their quad, were I not here. Continue reading

Groundhog Day

ImageBloody hell, I feel like I’m Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Every day, the same routine. Every day, I try to get it right—shred the bottles, collect the deposit, bring the right groceries home, keep the cellphones stocked with credit, refill the wine bottle, and every bloody day I get half of it wrong. Maybe the day I get it right, bingo, we get to go home.

I can’t help but let it get to me, the way the cashier at Kaiser’s reacted when I asked him to change my 2 euro coin for two 1 euro coins, just to unlock one of those ridiculously small carts with correct change so I could buy groceries in his store. Was the eyeroll, the sigh, the sagging shoulders, and the look of contempt really necessary? Why don’t they just unlock those carts then, if they don’t feel like making change? Continue reading