Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Random Search

As you might remember, Gus is house/dog sitting this week, up in the big city of Minneapolis.  This is a fine thing, a change of scenery is good.  As I may have mentioned, some real work would be cool.  But this will do for now.  I mentioned that there was a full supply of liquor here.  Well, sadly, I've barely touched it.  I had expected to down a few bottles of wine by this time, but so far managed to finish only one since Saturday.  And I haven't opened a single beer.  What is wrong with Gus?  Normally he'd be hungover or something right now.  But no, it's these dogs always keeping me busy.  Or perhaps it's "maturity"?  I don't know.  I'd rather not think about that one.

So yesterday I decided that I was going to go to the canoe builder's supply store in St. Paul. Did I mention that I'd been building a canoe?  Yes, I've got one all stripped out in a relative's workshop.  And that's as far as Uncle Gus got before he ran out of cash.  You know what I tell people about that?  I tell them, "Yah, when I have the money, I don't have the time.  And when I have the time, I don't have the money."  And that's just the way it was with this canoe project, this Labor of Love that I had expected to have finished and floating by this past summer.  But no, the work dried up before I was able to purchase the fiberglass and epoxy.  I worked off and on during the summer, sometimes for a couple of weeks at a stretch.  But it was always just enough to catch back up, never enough to get ahead.  But seriously, that's just the way it goes sometimes.  I've worked in cubicles, I've worked in factories.  I miss the regular paycheck, but still feel bad for those who are trapped in that treadmill lifestyle choice.

I went on the internet and got the location and directions for Northwest Canoe, and wrote it all down.  The store is in a big warehouse building in downtown St. Paul, according to the website.  Then I took off from here.  I took the road that follows the Mississippi to St. Paul.  It was a nice quiet drive, much easier, and probably closer, than if I'd taken the interstate.  I drove along and then got to downtown St. Paul and reached over for my directions and they weren't there!  And in my mind's eye, I could see them, right beside the door where I had set them down while I put my gloves on.  Sheesh!

I picked an exit at random, and drove up through the older part of town, where the warehouses tower huge and blocky over the streets.  These old buildings cover a city block.  They're made of brick and stone.  They cast shadows over the streets.  None of them seem to be warehouses any longer.  They've all been converted into stores, and fancy loft-type apartments with doormen and security.

I thought, maybe I can find this place.  Maybe if I just take my time and drive around I'll come upon it.  Yes, that's pretty naive, I know.  Sometimes I'm a naive and trusting soul.  So I drove down one-way streets, then up others, winding around and getting lost, then finding my way again.  There were streets being worked on, so there were detours that took me way out of the way, and I'd have to drive and drive until I found a place to turn and double back.  And I'd have to say that the good part of this was that there was nobody with me saying, "Turn here!  Turn there!"  I was able to get lost and then found all on my own with no worries about anyone getting exasperated with me.  Not all who wander are lost.  And I went on like this for about a half an hour, winding my way along the shaded streets and the traffic.

I finally decided to stop and walk around.  I pulled into a short street that ran along a big red brick warehouse that filled a city block.  It was quite tall, and quite old.  I saw an open parking space and pulled in.  Then I put money in the meter and went for a stroll.  I walked quite a few blocks from there, past coffee shops and taverns, fancy restaurants, and dive cafes.  All without any luck.  I finally decided to go back to where I parked and put some more quarters in and go into the coffee shop that was on the first floor of that big red warehouse.  I knew they'd have wi-fi, and I could use my iPod to figure out where I was.  I went in and was about to order some food so they'd let me stay there.  I thought I could order a bowl of soup and chunk of bread and just relax for a bit.  But at the last second I told the gal at the counter that I was lost.  And she was really nice, and asked me where I wanted to be.  And I took a long shot and said, "Well, I heard there was this canoe builder in St. Paul."  I mean, why would some chick in a coffee shop know anything about a small canoe building shop?

But she did!  She said, "Oh, that's downstairs, at the other corner of this building."  What???  You mean I walked around town for almost an hour and it was right here?  And so it was, right around the corner from where I had parked.  A few short steps.  I was there all along.  It just amazes me how that can happen sometimes.

I walked around the building and down a short alley, and there was a big garage door with the name of the business.  I didn't see a regular door, but there was a sign on the garage door that said, "Forget Minnesota Nice.  Don't knock.  Just raise the garage door and come in!"  Okay.  So I did.  And there was dog standing there, pushing his nose into my crotch and wagging his tail happily.  Nice doggy.  I heard someone call him, and he trotted off.  His work was done.  I pulled the door back down behind me.

There were two guys working there, a guy in his mid-to-late fifties, and a guy about thirty.  That was it.  There were two canoes being repaired, from the looks of them, and one canoe just being built.  The forms were set up and there were a few strips resting on it, ready to be placed.  And the older guy dropped everything to help me out and answer all of my questions.  I explained how far I had progressed on my canoe, even to the point of telling him that money was the main reason I had stopped.  And you know what he said?  This guy said the same thing I often say, and just now mentioned at the top of this page;  "When you have the time, you don't have the money.  And when you have the money, you don't have the time.  Yeah, I know how that goes!"

I told him that, money aside, I was really nervous about the fiberglassing part of this project.  He walked me through the fiberglass procedure better than any book I've read about it.  He even drew a diagram of how to apply fiberglass cloth to the canoe.  Then he explained that I could buy enough this week to do the outside, then order the rest in a couple of weeks if that would make it easier financially.  He figured out how much I'd need this week if I did it that way.  I tell you what, it's good to meet people like that. 

So I'm going back there later this week to pick up enough to seal the outside of my canoe.  Unless someone magically dumps a couple hundred into my checking.  And then I'm going back up to that cafe where I was kindly given directions, and I'll have myself a bowl of hot soup, and some coffee, and watch the cars and the people and I'll plan for the day when I can feel the canoe finally sliding over the open water.  I know it will be good.

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