Lizzie had said in her email, “Let’s meet at the Black Forest Inn. I think you told me you’d never been there. It’s a place you might like.”
How nice of Lizzie to suggest a new place for me to enjoy. Of course, I had been there many times, most recently for the Science Blogs Millionth Comment Party–so it had been a while. But there was a time when I lived around the corner and came here much more often. So when I met up with Lizzie that night, and we were sitting at the bar in the Black Forest eating our hearty Germanic food, I reminisced a bit….
…Several years earlier I found myself living alone in Minneapolis, with my daughter overseas for a period of time, and no one else around I really knew except one person, who lucky for me was my BFF Stephanie. So over several weeks time, we managed to get together frequently, and Stephanie would show me things about the city that as a relative newcomer I did not know. The very first thing she showed me was the rose garden over by Lake Harriet. Later, she showed me a selection of bars and taverns with excellent food or well-made martinis. And somewhere along the way she showed me the Black Forest Inn and told me the first version I ever heard of the story of the Richard Avedon photo with the bullet holes in it. (The version that I tell is a very accurate one, by the way.) It was very nice of her to do that, and it was during this time that I learned that Minneapolis was a city with much to offer, but at the same time I did not really get a full understanding of the geography. Mainly because Stephanie was always driving.
Which reminds me of a story.
Over the previous few months, in South Africa, I drove a nice Toyota Land Cruiser. Every now and then Stephanie got to drive that vehicle, and when she did, I noticed that she was a very careful and thoughtful driver, always going slow, always double-checking everything. When we returned to Minneapolis, Stephanie’s car was in the shop for a while, so we would go places together in my car, usually with Stephanie driving because she knew the way and wanted to show me around. Again, she was a very cautious driver, always staying two miles per hour under the speed limit, always double-checking everything, and just being very, very careful.
Then one day she got her car back from the shop. She called me and said “I have to stop at Biblios and pick up a present for my friend’s birthday. Let me pick you up and we’ll stop there quick and then have lunch. I’ve got exactly one hour.” And of course, I said yes.
As I walked down to the street, knowing she’d be there momentarily, I calculated in my head how long it would take to get to the store and to get lunch and eventually get back, and I was thinking, “No way can we do this in one hour.” And these thoughts were still in my head when I climbed in the passenger seat of her car, and just as I was closing the door and reaching for my seat belt, Stephanie pulled away from the curve and accelerated to about Mach 0.25.
We jumped on the highway; we jumped off the highway. We cut around some heavy traffic by using the ubiquitous alleyways in this city. We used shortcuts taxi drivers would pay money to know about. Just to make sure, I looked over to see who was driving, and there was Stephanie behind the wheel. Her countenance was utterly calm, as it always is– this lady is a cool as a cucumber at almost all times–but her shoulder and upper arm muscles, which she had been working on for the last few weeks at the gym in order to look extra buff in a dress she was wearing to her brother’s wedding, rippled impressively as she wrangled the wheel and the stick like a professional race driver.
So I said, “Stephanie, take it easy!”
“What? What do you mean?”
“We don’t need to be in such a hurry, we can skip lunch…,” holding the dash with one hand and the handle over the passenger door with the other….
“No problem, Greg, we’ve got piles of time.”
So I thought about it for a minute, as we careened across the city, leaving a trail of close calls and frightened pedestrians.
“What’s the problem, Greg? Spit it out!”
“Well, I just never saw you drive like this before.”
“Oh, that!” she interrupted. “This is how I normally drive.”
“Really? But I’ve never seen you….”
“Greg. That was your car.”
“I was always driving your car. Now, I’m driving my car. It’s different.”
But I digress…now, where was I?
I mentioned this to Lizzie, how I had been first introduced to the Black Forest by Stephanie many years back during this period of my indoctrination to Minneapolis. And that prompted me to tell her another story that layered on top of that last one…
This was about a year later, and I was in a new relationship with a woman whom I will call “Trish” (throughout this reminiscence you may expect certain details to be changed to protect the innocent). Trish and I ended up living together at a couple of locations in South Minneapolis, one of which was a short distance away from the Black Forest. It was during this time that I gained my geographical understanding of the region. It was an odd experience. Trish, who knew the city very well, would take me some place and say, “Isn’t this place great! The food is excellent,” or, “Don’t you love the martini’s they make here?” or whatever.
And every time I would think, Hmmm…this place looks familiar. I think maybe Stephanie took me to this place once.
And just as I would be thinking this, Trish would say, “Aren’t you glad I showed you this place, Greg?” and squeeze my arm or give me a little kiss or something. And so just before I’d have blurted out, “Oh, yeah, I remember now. Stephanie brought me here once,” I’d instead just shut up and go, “Mmmm, yeah, cool, thanks,” or words to that effect.
After this happened four or five times, I started to get the hang of it. But it is true that my second first introduction to the Black Forest was from Trish. In fact, Trish’s work resulted in her having meetings here quite frequently, and I would often show up at the monthly post-meeting gatherings, usually out on the terrace, which is a very nice feature of the Black Forest.
It was interesting to see all of these sights for the first time twice. It gave me a different perspective of the city than I might otherwise have gotten. It actually resulted in me having a stronger sense of personal involvement or even a kind of experiential ownership (or maybe authorship?) of the city and my relationship to it. When Trish and I broke up, which was not a pleasant experience, a wise person who was helping me immensely in those days in my own personal development suggested to me that I’d be better off moving not just to a new place, but to a new neighborhood. But I didn’t. I moved from two blocks one side of the Black Forest Inn to two blocks to the other side of it and staked my claim and claimed my steaks. Or should I say, claimed my schnitzel. Sure, Trish and I were broken up, and this was more her neighborhood than mine, but it was also Stephanie’s neighborhood, and since Stephanie will always be my BFF (that’s what the second F is for!) there will always be those disjointed spotty and very pleasant shared memories connected by the frightful blurs of inter-experiential transport at Mach 0.25….
So it was a very sweet moment for me. Lizzie, a friend with whom I seem to be growing closer, wanted to show me this place, the Black Forest. And she did. I saw it for the first time once again, and did so sitting in exactly the same seat as one of the previous first times, and just around the corner on the square bar in the middle of the room from the seat I occupied one of the other first times. And I know that we both reflected on where we’ve been in this city, where we are now, and where we are going over the next year, because both of us have changes that we know are coming.