Tuesday, September 15, 2015

CHASING MARY--Finding My Legs in Minneapolis

Four days.

Well, four days and forty-three years. That’s how long it takes to get to Minneapolis. Mary Richards’ home. I will restate that I know she’s not real. Let her be my icon. Let this be my ComicCon.

If I went with the “facts” of the show, Mary would be 75 now. (Indeed, the woman who played her, Mary Tyler Moore, is 78.) But time is suspended in TV Land. Let Mary Richards forever be thirtysomething. (I'm blocking out that TV movie, “Mary and Rhoda” filmed in 2000, wherein we learn Mary is a widow living in New York City. Not part of the series; doesn’t count.)

Just as Mary was welcomed and shown an upper floor apartment during the pilot episode, I was greeted by Peter, my Airbnb host and ushered upstairs to the room where I’d be staying for the next week. There was no Rhoda vying for the same space; instead, there was a smoky gray cat curled up in the middle of the bed. Low purr translation: I called dibs.

“She’s friendly,” Peter said. Great. I’m not a cat guy. I just smiled politely and nodded. This was a mistake. A week in a stranger’s house. With a territorial cat. And there was that thing about Mary not being real.

Reality is overrated.

I hadn’t planned it, but the character home where I was staying resembled the place where Mary supposedly lived. Smaller, but the same style. I wasn’t trying to mimic Mary’s living arrangement. Didn’t even give it a thought. Booking a place in my price range had been tricky. One Airbnb host rejected me as my week-long stay dug into two Saturdays, prime booking days. I was just relieved to have a place that was affordable, at least before computing the costs in relation to my weakling Canadian dollar. Shrug. I’d live in denial until returning to Vancouver.

I set my things in the closet, away from the cat, and decided my Mary tour could wait. It was Saturday evening and my road weary legs needed a jog.

There is nothing like discovering a new place on foot. I make a point of jogging ASAP whenever I’m in a new city. Sometimes I can’t find my way back as my routes meander from Ooh-look-at-that to I-wonder-what’s-over-there, but getting lost is part of the adventure. I headed north—or, at least, that’s the direction I assumed I was going; I have a faulty internal compass—and assumed I’d soon come to one of the bike paths for which Minneapolis is known. I’d jogged less than ten minutes—really, five minutes of jogging and four minutes of waiting through red lights—when I stumbled on the other reason I’d come to Minneapolis. (It’s the reason I gave to my friends about my summer destination. Some people, I reasoned, might be a tad judgy about a Mary Richards pilgrimage.) Several months ago, I’d read about an international Pop Art exhibit at the Walker and I was eager to expand my conception of this movement beyond Warhol and Lichtenstein.

How fortuitous that the Walker was within walking distance of my temporary home! Even better, I stumbled upon an outdoor sculpture garden associated with the museum. I flitted from oversized “Spoonbridge and Cherry” to “Bronze Woman IV” to “Hare on Bell on Portland Stone Piers”, my jogging pace severely compromised but my heart rate increasing rapidly. Good public art makes you laugh, scrunch up your nose, tilt your head for a different perspective and/or want to go back for another look. Let’s just say I found the Walker’s sculpture garden very, very good!

I managed to move on and just a few blocks away found some wonderful cycling/jogging trails that took me around Cedar Lake. This is the place of 10,000 lakes—one down 9,999 to go!

I wound down again on the grounds around the Walker Art Museum. Away from the rest of the sculptures, three large boulders were arranged in a cluster, each of them partially coated in colorful metallic paint. Three men approached me to ask about the Walker building. “We are visiting from India,” they said. “What is that?”

What are the odds? It was the only question about the city that I could correctly answer. Then one of them asked about the big rocks. “Is that a grave? Did someone die there?” Okay, two questions, two bang-on answers. It seems I was an established Minneapolitan. That song from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” played in my head once again: “You’re gonna make it after all.”

And as the men went their way and I went mine—yes, in the right direction “home”—I looked up at the cloudy sky. There was one small clearing, and in that space of relative blue, my official welcome. Though it hadn’t rained, there was the band of a rainbow. The long trip, through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and a good chunk of Minnesota, was all worth it.

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