I drove across the state last week. Went to Fargo so I could say I was "up from the Cities." A few notes:
1. Stopped for gas and went in to get coffee. I was wearing a wireless earbud, which made the clerk point and laugh — and not in a nice way. More like a "look at this idiot up from the Cities, wearing his white ear thing so he can chatter about nothing that means anything."
He was right. But at least I was drinking black coffee from the urn, not something with two pumps of caramel and soy milk sprinkled with Stevia. It was manly coffee, and I hope he appreciated that when I threw it in his face. Kidding, of course!
2. This isn't the prime season for the beauty of middle Minnesota. Snow still lay in the ruts and ditches; fallow fields stretched like worn carpet to the walls of the windbreaks. Spring feels as if it's avoiding our calls and pretending it didn't see our texts.
I took Hwy. 10 because the interstate is boring. The exits have the names of the towns, but you never pull off because that would slow you down. It's bad enough that you stop for gas and the guy you spent 20 miles trying to pass is suddenly ahead of you again.
3. If you've traveled the road before, you know the landmarks. The pirate sign. The fish on a pole. The Spot Cafe. And Lefty's. You applaud a new gas station where the old one had been shuttered, and you mourn the place that used to sell antiques and now sits empty.
The antique stores were the places where Grandma's stuff spent its last few years together. Someone cleaned out the farmhouse, split the good stuff up among the kids and sent the rest to the antique barn.
If the gleaner had a keen eye, they would have saved the old cans and bottles, the sheet music, the ancient magazines Grandma put away for a reason we'll never know. And they would have grabbed the photos of people made anonymous when everyone who knew their names had passed, as well as a few rusty implements from Grandma's forebears. Everything else went its separate ways.
These in-between days have the character of antiques, about to be dispersed. What came before — the slog of winter — is forgotten when the weather turns kind, the skies blare blue and the trees bud, the fields stir.
4. When the world greens up, Hwy. 10 will be a better drive — full of zeal when everyone's heading up to the lake on Friday and warm bug-bitten summer contentment for their return on Sunday. I can't wait to head up again — but I'll have to get coffee at a different gas station. The one I used last probably has tapes of the whole incident.
email@example.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks