Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I'll take that slaw, but hold the Mayo

I've lived in plenty of places in the past thirty-eight years. An apartment above Willson's General Store in Lisbon, Iowa. A former Catholic School building (from the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which -- given my dating ineptitude in those days -- was appropriate) in Decorah, Iowa. A very large house divided into much smaller apartments in Postdam, New York.

But to my knowledge, all of the twenty or so places I've called home are still standing. Until, apparently, soon. Word has reached 19 Minutes International Media Headquarters of the impending demise of the College Apartments in downtown Rochester, Minnesota.

Frankly, I'm not sure how to take this news. The College Apartments were apparently the swankiest apartments in town when they were built. In 1914. By the time they housed my white naugahyde couch and Toshiba T-1200 laptop, in 1994, they were, well, okay. Reasonably priced. In decent shape. They had high ceilings and big rooms. They also had no air conditioning and a cockroach problem. Bats occasionally rode the air currents around my ceiling fan, and my car was broken into outside (which was, to my knowledge carried out with a different kind of bat).

It was the first apartment I'd had that accommodated more than one friend at a time. In an inspired bit of smug self-satisfaction, it played host to an occasional gathering of radio and newspaper reporters to mock the 10:00 news on TV. Then, we started making more friends in television, gave up the "Mock the News" parties and moved the gatherings to Newt's Bar.

And it was a comfortable place to come home to after getting my wisdom teeth out at the Mayo Clinic. I remember very little about returning home that day, actually. But fortunately, a friend, fellow radio person, and fellow College Apartments dweller drove me home after the surgery and - after I had stopped giggling and snorting from the anesthesia - left me to the cockroaches and the bats. [It was coming down off the anesthesia, I believe, that I struck an important bargain with the roaches - they would never leave the friendly confines of the kitchen, and I would refrain from blasting them with aerosol air freshener.]

And yet, the College Apartments were never what you'd call homey. [Or "homie," for that matter. But then again, everything in Minnesota is just a little too Minnesotan to be called "homie."] They looked like sort of a tudor bungalow on steroids, a strangely placed apartment complex in the midst of Rochester's forty gazillion modern hospital buildings.

My friend Matt once noted that the ideal view of Rochester was in his rear-view mirror. And I shed few tears when I moved out of the College Apartments in 1996. But part of me can't help but feel like Snoopy when he found out the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm had been replaced by a six-story parking garage. Especially given that the Mayo Clinic, which owns the building, has no plans for the site. (So yeah, why not just knock it down?)

But there is some good news to report. Willson's General Store in Lisbon, Iowa, may be long departed, but the building appears to have been reborn as the Lisbon History and Culture Center, which - if the center's website is to be believed - will play host to the big Cabbage Weigh-off in August.

So who says you can never grow home again?

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