Friday, February 09, 2007

thank you agent orange: santa has cancer

the twin cities are more like fraternal twins than identical. for anyone who was born & raised here, or even, has lived here for a while. they know it. & they pick a city. aligning themselves on the west or the east side of the river. there's very few people who are able to stay neutral in this debate. you love st. paul or minneapolis, but nearly never ever, both.

minneapolis is the glam twin. with the hopping night life, breath taking sky line, posh clubs, restaurants, & extravagant hotels. it's the twin with the pizazz, the glitter, & the glitz. much more cosmopolitan than it's sister to the east. st. paul is a city of neighborhoods. we do have the science museum, the minnesota historical society, the state capital building. none of which, except possibly the science museum, can claim to be sexy in anyway. but it's ok, because we're a city of neighborhoods. you move to minneapolis to be anonymous, you move to st. paul to get to know your neighbors & become part of something larger than the four walls of your home.

one of the largest neighborhoods in st. paul is the east side. it sprawls all the way from the mounds park bluffs up to oakdale & over to maplewood. most of the people who live on the east side, especially my area of the east side, have been there for years & years. they grew up there as kids, their families are near by, & it's their home. they come from blue collar, working class families. where you go to work every day, put in your eight or ten hours of honest work & come home to your family, maybe stopping for a beer along the way. it's people who may not drive the newest cars or own the newest high definition tv on the market. but we have high speed internet. & cable. & we have our community.

& community is one of our most valued possessions. we may not sit naked around a bonfire every friday night singing kumbya, but we're aware of what's going on, & we care about the people living their lives parallel to ours. one of the landmarks of the east side, is our family owned businesses. it's not all chain stores & a mc-life. our neighborhoods have personality & individuality.

today i saw something that made me see my little corner of the world in a different way. while getting our weekly cheese & meat from the butcher i was looking at the fliers they had hanging up & one caught my eye. it was for a benefit dinner for a man who was just diagnosed with cancer, the suspected culprit: agent orange. his wife has struggled with MS for several years, so a benefit dinner was being hosted for them to help with the medical costs & other bills that were accumulating. & staring at the fuzzy black & white picture, i recognized the guy, at least, i think i did. i think i do.

at little oven, which is just across the street from big steer, there's a man that often comes in to eat alone. he has white hair & a big bushy white beard, just like the guy in the picture, just like santa claus. at christmas this gentleman even dresses up as santa, red suit & all, to hand out candy canes to kids. he's always smiling & always cheerful, no matter what the weather is like outside. now, it's very possible that the gentleman i know from little oven is different from the one i saw in the picture at big steer. it's possible.

but even if they are different men. the one smiling from the pixelated gray & white photo still looks like santa. & he still has cancer as a result of serving in vietnam for the american military. & there's something about that situation that makes my day just a little more gray.

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