Tuesday, September 22, 2015

CHASING MARY--Two Million Short

When people asked about my summer plans and I mentioned spending a week in Minneapolis, most just nodded. The equivalent to “Hmm” or “I got nothing.” What do you say about Minneapolis? One or two dared to probe further: “Why Minneapolis?”

It would have been easy if I’d just said I had relatives there. Some second cousin, once removed. I’ve never understood the whole cousin removal business but it sounds like something real. People visit family all the time and, if I want to connect with some removed relatives, it sounds like a noble thing to do.

Of course I don’t have a second cousin, removed or otherwise, in Minneapolis or St. Paul or anywhere else in Minnesota. The cousin isn’t real. I’d be lying.

Never mind that the person I was searching for in Minneapolis wasn’t real either. Mary Richards is far more than any made up cousin. Still, I was sane enough not to mention Mary. I didn’t tell this to nosy friends and I certainly didn’t share this when crossing the U.S. border. No guns, no Canadian apricots, no hopes of connecting with a TV character. Instead, I volunteered some sort of babble like, “Minneapolis is supposed to be a progressive, healthy, bike crazy city. And someone once told me it’s the most Canadian city in the U.S., whatever that means. I’ve never been to Minnesota so…why not?”

Good enough.

I will admit that a part of me questioned the other part of me. What the hell is with you and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”? If you had to go on some trek to follow a TV show, why couldn’t it have been “Hawaii Five-0” or “Miami Vice” or “Downton Abbey”? Alas, the mind likes what it likes. So, yeah, Minneapolis.

As I had a week in the city, I decided to pace myself in pursuing Mary. Sure, I’d stumbled upon her neighborhood grocery store within hours of arriving, but the rest could wait. On my first full day, I did the kinds of things I’d do in any city. I explored art and ice cream. I walked in the local parks. I jogged around another lake. All good. All completely Mary-free. Proof that I still had some sanity.

By Day 2, I was ready. I needed to find Mary’s apartment or at least the large home that served as the exterior shot to show viewers a switch in setting from Mary’s work in the newsroom at WJM to the building where Mary and Rhoda and Phyllis (and Bess) lived. Before Rhoda left for New York and Phyllis (and Bess) headed for San Francisco.

Based on my research, I’d found an article from 2013 indicating that the house used in exterior shots as Mary Richards’ building was for sale. To my surprise, the house was still listed. Reduced! Only $1,995,000! For a good twenty-five seconds, I imagined buying it. I could be the owner of Mary, Rhoda and Phyllis’ home! Never mind the long immigration process. Never mind my complete lack of finances. It was a fleeting fantasy. The technicalities were insurmountable. I’d have to settle with just seeing the place like every other tourist.

And so I Google Mapped it. Or maybe I Mapquested it. (Which is better? I can never decide.) We were practically neighbors! I was only 1.4 miles away. Google Maps (or Mapquest) estimated it would be a twenty-two-minute walk or six-minute drive. Of course I drove. I was too excited. With only a few blocks to go, I was delayed by a construction zone. Then, I got stuck behind an elderly driver making a right hand turn at five miles an hour, maybe less. Everything seemed to move in slow motion when I felt such an urgency. Isn’t that always the case?

At last, I reached the intersection, 21st and Kenwood Parkway. I knew the house. Right on the corner.

And to my astonishment, parking was easy. There were no cars parked on either side of either street. There was no crowded jockeying for the best selfies. In fact, there was no one at all.

How could this be? The house had been so Google-able. Anyone could find it. And yet there I was standing across the street, alone, suddenly feeling dopey. I’d driven all this way from Vancouver to see this house. The place where Mary lived.

Being stunned gave way to feeling giddy. Mary’s house! I clicked away, getting shots from every possible angle. A ten-year-old boy passed, frowning at me as his golden retriever pulled him onward. Poor kid. He would know nothing of Mary Richards. Must’ve thought I was some random buyer, looking at a home with a price tag that was supposed to keep riffraff like me away.

There was a moment where I felt my eyes well up. I’d always wanted to connect with Mary. Here I was right outside her apartment. I knew from the real estate photos that the inside looked nothing like Mary’s apartment. No sunken living room. No “M” on the wall. It didn’t matter. For whatever reason, I’d always felt a connection with Mary Richards and I’d finally made the pilgrimage to her home. No more “some days”; I’d done it.  

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