We spent the early afternoon of Day Four walking into the heart of downtown St. Paul with a light itinerary and a curiosity to see if any surprises were waiting for us. The must-see item atop my list was Rice Park, a modest patch of greenery nestled snugly between eight major structures as a relaxing nexus of life, nature, serenity, and incidental tributes to the great Charles Schulz.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Each year from 2003 to 2013 my wife, my son, and your humble writer headed out on a long road trip to anywhere but here. Our 2014 road trip represented a milestone of sorts: our first vacation in over a decade without my son tagging along for the ride. At my wife’s prodding, I examined our vacation options and decided we ought to make this year a milestone in another way — our first sequel vacation. This year’s objective, then: a return to Wisconsin and Minnesota. In my mind, our 2006 road trip was a good start, but in some ways a surface-skimming of what each state has to offer. I wanted a do-over.
Both acres of Rice Park were designated a public square in 1849, seven years before Central Park received the same nod, but was left more or less fallow until 1860, when landscaping began in earnest.
Near the center is the requisite park fountain, which includes a sculpture called “The Source” that was donated to the city in 1965 by the Women’s Institute of St. Paul. (They may have changed names since then. I couldn’t ascertain their current whereabouts.)
(You’ll note the return of the ubiquitous cranes that followed us through previous entries. The Twin Cities certainly weren’t content to sit still and rot during our visit.)
Between 2000 and 2003 the city sponsored a series of statues called “Peanuts on Parade” in honor of hometown hero Schulz, who was born in Minneapolis and raised in St. Paul. Later those statues were auctioned off, and permanent bronze versions of a few designs were commissioned in 2003 and 2004, including the pianist Schroeder and his unwanted groupie Lucy.
Sally Brown basks in the glow of Linus, her sweet babboo. In a rare out-of-character moment, Linus doesn’t seem to mind. Either he’s given up on resisting or he’s been drugged, and someone’s absconded with the all-powerful security blanket that would’ve shielded him from harm. So now the poor, innocent philosopher is immortalized at his weakest possible moment. Good grief!
In the lead photo that’s me hanging out with Marcie and enjoying the wonder of the printed page. Frolicking behind us is her best pal Peppermint Patty, preparing to kick a football through a window in the new entertainment venue they’re constructing across the way.
Also hanging out on the premises is the unsung hero of the Peanuts comic strip: Charlie Brown’s principal. This innovative, open-minded educator was the first in the nation to staff an elementary school entirely with teachers who spoke in ancient, indecipherable tongues. Scientists could never explain the daily lectures and lessons from all staff members that comprised nonsense phonemes and guttural squawks and…
…wait, no, my mistake: this is a statue of author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Someone figured he might as well be added to Rice Park since he was born in St. Paul and lived there till he was fifteen. I guess he’s okay, but he’s no Charles Schulz.
And here’s the star of the show, the center of the universe, the dependable dispenser of folksy, insightful, sometimes awkward wisdom, someone who’s really resonated and meant a lot to me over the years. And sitting next to my wife is good ol’ Charlie Brown, celebrated star of newsprint, stage, and screen. He’s acceptable too, but good luck trying to tell him that.
Snoopy seems comfy and quiet. Too, too quiet. Meanwhile inside his head, it was a dark and stormy night.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]