February, 02005. I wake up early to leave for a fencing tournament.

One of my favourite places in Minneapolis is the Witch's Hat water tower. The view from the base of the tower is pretty spectacular. It's a nice place to go during the day, but at night when the city is aglow, it's particular impressive. And somewhat inaccessible: there always seem to be people making out in front of the view, so a kind of unofficial line forms as everyone waits their turn to either take it in or do some making out themselves.


June, 02006. An evening view.

Many people are unaware, but you can go inside the tower! It is open to the public for a few hours just one day a year, in the early summer. The event is accompanied by an ice cream social, bouncy castles, live bands, and a line that snakes down the path to the tower, down the hill, down the street, and off into the golden west. You have to arrive early to get a spot in that line. And then wait for an intermeniable amount of time for it to advane to the door.

Once inside, it is dark and a little dank. A narrow staircase, maybe a 1.5 feet wide curls up along the outside of the tower. As it does so, it skirts a huge rusty cylindrical water tank in the middle.

Only a few people are allowed up at a time and you are given a little card. But, once at the top, you have some time to take in the view.

It took me many years to appreciate Minneapolis, but I think the Witch's Hat helped me do it. From the top, you see the city in a very different way. Your expectation is that you will see the many, many houses, the many, many cars, all the paved roads, and all of the people.

But you don't.

From the top, you see that Minneapolis and St. Paul are forests. A sea of green from which isolated islands of development rise. You are reminded of the Lonely Skyscraper.


June, 02006.


June, 02010.


Kathur, June 02010.
And you never end up climbing it alone either. Inevitably, you show up and you meet people you know there and either budge into line with them or welcome them to join you. “You made it, I've been waiting for you!”


Bripi, June 02006.

And you look back at the pictures later and wonder what happened to everyone. From the left, Veki moved to Hungary to become a medical doctor. Kaschul's friend disappeared from my ken. Kaschul remained near Minneapolis and shared a dancing adventure with me. L.H. picked up a good mechanical engineering job somewhere. L.L. was working to become a virologist and then decided to become a hydrologist. You know what's going on with me. Bripi moved to New Orleans, but her mother is still in the area.

I came back to the tower again in June, 02012 to climb the tower again. It was a warm day with a long line. After perhaps a half-hour of standing in it sending increasingly dire messages to Steo about how I was getting close to the door, and then standing to the side and letting parts of the line pass me, she appeared and gave me an enthusiastic hug before we stepped inside. While taking in the view at the top, K.T. appeared and took a few photos for us.

Afterwards, we walked by the ice cream social and it seemed like every thirty seconds I bumped into people I knew. Then we pulled free of the gravitational attraction of the tower and left for another year.




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