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My Daily Ten-Minute Walk

by Bill McGaughey

For more than a year now, I have taken a walk through the neighborhood the first thing in the morning. The purpose is to give my little fox-terrier dog, Do Do, regular exercise. I have an expandable leash with a collar which I slip around Do Do’s neck before taking him out the front door.

My house, at the corner of Glenwood and Knox Avenue north, is located at 1702 Glenwood Avenue in Minneapolis. It is next door to a nine-unit apartment building that I also own. Presently, there are two campaign lawn signs for Minneapolis city council member, Blong Yang, in my front yard. This house has a side walk that runs diagonally from my front porch to the corner of Glenwood and Knox, which is across the street from another apartment building where I lived for a year 25 years ago when I first came to the neighborhood.

Because I take this walk regularly each day, I have developed mental habits that guide my consciousness. I check certain landmarks as I walk by with my dog on the leash. Let me briefly describe the course of my walk.

From the corner on Glenwood Avenue, I cross Knox Avenue going east. I turn left on the sidewalk in front of the apartment building at 1618 Glenwood Avenue, which is surrounded by a black metal fence, and then walk a half block in front of the building to an alley that leads to its parking lot.

Turning right, I next walk through the alley. There is a multi-family house on the left. On the right is the apartment building and, farther down, a house owned by a Hmong family with a paved-over area where cars are sometimes parked. Blocked by a chain-link fence belonging to the fire department, the alley turns left at this point. I follow it for 30 feet to the intersection with 4th Avenue north. This is my entrance to Harrison park.

Before leaving the alley and reaching the park, I sometimes glance toward the right to see the back door of the apartment building which I used to enter the building a quarter century ago. My one-bedroom apartment, unit #9, was on the third floor on the building’s east side. But that was a long time ago. Those apartment windows, once familiar to me, now reveal nothing.

At the far end of the alley is the intersection with 4th Avenue north. A yellow concrete pole, perhaps four feet high, marks the entrance to the park. The fire-station complex, behind the chain-link fence, is off to my right. On the left is a grey wooden fence surrounding the yard owned by the Hmong family with the Knox Avenue address. That bleached wood fence, visible at a distance, is my first landmark. I can see it even a hundred yards across the park.

Anyhow as the alley ends at 4th Avenue north, I turn abruptly to the right and walk ten yards or so to the entrance of a small walk way that cuts diagonally through Harrison park. Here a flock of perhaps a dozen Canadian geese was gathered on the ground in front of me yesterday morning, growing ever more nervous as I approached. The birds all took off when Do Do pulled suddenly at his leash.

Geese or not, I continue my walk up the diagonal path. A small basketball court is on my right. Every once in a while, someone will be shooting baskets. I approach a playground with brightly colored yellow or red slides and swings which children can use if they wish. On the far end is a miniature train. There are two wooden benches on the pathway and a metal bench with brightly colored tiles on the seat. I sometimes sat on that bench when, before a stent was placed in my blocked artery, I would tire at that point. Now I just take note. Nine times out of ten, Do Do and I will be completely alone as we pass the area, it being early in the morning.

The walkway continues another fifty feet or do to a sidewalk running east and west from the park building to the alley on the west side. Here I abruptly turn left, walking in a westward direction. This is the closest I will come to the Harrison park building on my right. In front of it is a swimming pool which used to have running water coming out of a faucet, even in the early morning. Now in the late summer, this service apparently has been discontinued for the season. A large sign marks the entrance to the park building.

Immediately ahead of me and to the right as I head west is a stone shed where equipment for the park is kept. Usually the building is locked. There is a playground off to my right that has two baseball diamonds. I have never seen those fields being occupied by anyone but flocks of geese. In fact, early in the morning I seldom see anyone in the park. This particular morning I saw perhaps two dozen geese in the field but they were too far away to become nervous.

After I have walked past the stone shed and a small hill and then down the sidewalk, I reach the alley that I had crossed shortly before entering the park. I am now about eighty feet north of that point. I walk past another house to my right and another on my left before reaching Knox Avenue North. The house on my right has a small garden. This is the half-way point on my walk.

I next cross Knox Avenue to the southwest corner of Knox and 5th Avenue north. There is a vacant lot on the corner to my right. To my left, across the street, is a ranch-type house owned by some people who verbally threatened me several years ago. That dispute has subsided, but I make sure to walk down 4th Avenue on the other side of the street. The vacant lot on the corner has grass and clover that is cut every two months or so. It may be owned by Bob Zeman, who was notorious as a slumlord. He may still own the house next door on Knox. A house or two north of it is a smaller red house that used to be owned by Toni McCloney, mother of the comedian “Fancy Ray” McCloney. But she moved out of the neighborhood years ago.

After walking west on 5th Avenue past the vacant lot, I reach an alley and then a fenced yard and another house which is on the corner of Logan and 4th. Behind the fence are some of the tallest stalks of corn I have ever seen. One of them is twelve feet high. But I am mainly interested in what comes next. When the wooden fence ends, I take a peak at the side door to the house. A pair of black boots is always sitting on the upper step behind a reddish clay flower pot. This sight is one of the highlights of my daily walk. Only once were those boots missing and they were promptly replaced. I have to report, however, that, as of yesterday, the clay pot is no longer in front of the boots. Knocked to the ground, it is now lying on the ground next to the doorway.

Anyway, after checking this landmark, I continue my walk another twenty feet to a fire hydrant on the corner of Logan and 5th Avenue North. Here I abruptly turn left and head down Logan toward Glenwood Avenue. After crossing 5th Avenue, I see rows of houses on both sides of the street. The house on the other side of the street has a Blong Yang lawn sign in the front yard. Then comes a strange-looking building with a black facade. There is also a neighborhood garden with a sign that says “Logan Blooms”. Other houses also line the block on that side of Logan all the way down to 4th.

On my side of the street, to my left, are two well-kept houses with fenced-in yards. Then comes a vacant lot with a large tree that leans toward the street. The sidewalk becomes a bit uneven here. At one point it dips and fills with water or ice during the winter or spring months. Just beyond this point there used to be a smaller tree whose trunk was marked by a painted green X. I interpreted this mark as the city’s decision to cut down the tree. Sure enough, this tree was, in fact, cut down in the early autumn. Now all that is left is a stump cut close to the ground a foot or so in diameter. But I will always miss seeing that tree. It was the second major landmark on my walk.

After walking another thirty feet or so past the cut tree, I reach the corner of Logan and 4th. I continue my walk to Glenwood Avenue. To my right is a lot owned by Redeemer Lutheran Church and then the church itself which stands on the corner of Glenwood and Logan. To my left is a parking lot owned by Milda’s cafe. The cafe itself is part of a larger building site that also includes units of rental housing and a small meeting place for persons in the neighborhood. Its entrance is on the corner. Of interest to me is a pair of news stands, one owned by the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper and the other owned by the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune. I usually stop briefly at the stands to catch the daily headlines.

From here, I continue walking east on Glenwood past three units of rental housing owned by Ann Foerst. On the other side of Glenwood is a duplex that I own together with a secluded vacant lot. I often come here with Do Do in the late afternoon to let him run around without a leash. Today, continuing on the sidewalk on the north side of Glenwood, I come to my apartment building at 1708 Glenwood Avenue that is marked by a sign saying “Durham House Apartments”. “Durham” was my mother’s maiden name.

This phase of the walk can be stressful if , as often happens, Billy Pritchard’s dog leans out of his second-story apartment and starts barking. Do Do responds with his own vigorous barking. Before the dogs take complete control of the situation, I pull Do Do’s leash to hurry him along to the yard in front of my house. I cross the yard to the sidewalk and go up the steps to the front door. I open the door and am home.

After removing Do Do’s leash, I sit in the rocking chair in the living room to catch a few minutes of cable-television news. My wife, Sheila, brings me a cup of coffee. Do Do lies down next to me on the floor.

This, in a nutshell, is how I start my day. It’s been much the same routine now for more than a year.

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