Monthly Archives: October 2012

Community Editors Start at the Beginning

Last night was the first meeting of the Saint Paul Almanac community editor group and my second season as an editor. When our work is done, we will have helped launch the 2014 (and eighth) edition. It will make its debut next year in September. There were about 20 of us, seated at a long […]

On the Way to Shangri-La

It was an easy scam–Hollywood-tacky and shiny, Burt Bacharach-groovy and a temporary high. I was a young teenager when I first learned about Shangri-La, a mysterious, beautiful land, somewhere near China and India, where the people lived simple, happy lives in such harmony with nature that they hardly showed their age beyond 100. I remember […]

Get Out the Rakes and Fight Phosphorus!


Remember the days when folks raked the boulevard leaves into the street? A big street sweeper from the city would come by leaving the street looking tidy. Those days are so over.

For one thing, it’s the law in St. Paul: “Depositing any material (i.e. leaves) from the boulevard or private property into the street is prohibited. Municipal Code Section 106.02” For another, it’s common sense.

As a city neighborhood, St. Anthony Park sheds water like raincoat in a downpour. There are plenty of hard surfaces – streets, sidewalks, alleys and parking lots that drain storm water to surrounding lakes and the Mississippi River. The leaves and plants from our yards never get a chance to break down into soil, as they would naturally. Instead, leaves, grass clippings, soil get washed by stormwater runoff into street gutters and storm sewers, and straight into the lakes and rivers.

The result of this ‘rainwater river’ of debris is that bodies of water in our watershed area, the Mississippi River and Como Lake for example, get overwhelmed and “impaired” (according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) by excessive concentrations of phosphorus, a chemical by-product as they plant matter decays. Check out the murky green algae growth in Como Lake caused by phosphorus. This isn’t good for the health of our rivers and lakes.

We residents who live on the streets that drain to our river and lakes can reduce phosphorus at the source, by preventing organic debris from getting into storm drains in the first place. St. Paul’s street sweepers still come through (about 8 times a year from spring to fall) but now residents are asked to do their part to keep the gutters as clear as possible of leaves and grass in between sweepings.

We will be doing a week-long, DIY community leaf cleanup the week of October 13-20; we’ll have free compostable bags, snacks, instructions, and a limited number of rakes available for pickup at the following times:
Saturday, October 13, 9am-12pm at Park Midway Bank (2300 Como)
Monday, October 15, 3-6pm at the South St. Anthony Rec Center (890 Cromwell)
You can do your leaf collection at any point during the week of October 13-20.
St. Anthony Park’s Community Council is working with the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization to report a tally of the amount of leaves raked up from the boulevards.
Please report the number of bags you collected from your boulevard by emailing or calling 651-649-5992.

Winners & Losers






Yesterday I watched the high school tennis team that my daughter coaches get creamed. I have never felt so proud of a group of losers.

This girls tennis team, from the heart of the St. Paul Public School district, has struggled to have the numbers, only a dozen, to constitute a team. The coaches are three young women–the only female tennis coaches in their section. Most of the players come from ethnic communities where it is day one with Title XIV. Many of the girls skip practice and games because they have duties at home or at a job which is essential to the family income. For them, the tennis team is fun but comes second to family duties.

Some of players don’t take themselves seriously as athletes because they have not spent the last 15 years of their lives having tennis lessons with parents at the sidelines encouraging them. Whatever they bring to the game is self-taught and absorbed during a brief season of coaching at school. They play with donated rackets, inexpensive tennis shoes and some of them play in hijabs pinned tightly for the gusty autumn weather on the courts. Harder yet, is to compete against other teams where the opponents have so much more training and a well developed understanding of the of the game. It’s a culture clash.

What I noticed yesterday was that even in the face of a very strong team, the girls played their best. One match I was watching went on for a very long time, even though our player was behind in the score, she played long points, refusing to give up a single rally until she had chased the ball down to every corner of the court. Her opponent made it clear that she was exasperated. She had expected to win quickly and easily. Whenever they hit a deuce score, she would roll her eyes, slump her shoulders, and mutter self-reproaches, “That was a stupid shot!” and so on.

Our player never once made a negative remark or expressed disappointment in herself or implied that her opponent was being a problem. She just played hard. At the end of the game, she shook hands with her opponent with a genuine smile. She knew that, win or lose, she had played some of the best tennis she had ever played.

There were not many parents there to watch these beautiful girls. (I am there to support my own former high school player, now coach, do her thing.) I’m glad that I was. Winning isn’t everything.

This version of Creep by the Belgian women’s choir Scala and the Kolacny Brothers takes on new meaning when these women’s voices (ages 16 to 62) join together–it’s quite moving.

Half the Sky Will Fill Your Heart

  You don’t have to be a third world girl, mired in poverty, sold to a brothel, raped, shamed and disowned by your family and community to recognize the deep and universal roots of the problem. There is a gut wrench when you see it–how the sex trafficking of children and women is a crime […]

Lonely Blonde Visits the New American Swedish Institute

I put on shades and a floppy linen hat to disguise my recent bout with shingles and took a quiet afternoon by myself to visit the American Swedish Institute and its new, adjoining Nelson Cultural Center. The institute has for many years been housed in the mansion built by newspaper publisher Swan Turnblad. It has stood […]