Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ode to the Skyway

I'm back in Minnesota, and having had the opportunity to wander around in downtown Minneapolis for an hour this morning, as I strolled from one building to another via the skyway system, I realized that I truly love it.

Not just in an "omg, I love The Big Lebowski!" kind of way, either. Emotions run thick through me in certain sections of skyway; memories of people, events, and jobs, and what they meant to me, are inescapable. Some buildings calm me; others make my pulse race. It's amazing the gamut of feelings I experience merely by walking past offices, restaurants, and shoe shines.

A view up 4th Street
You have to look closely - it's just past the Sheriff's office

One of the coolest parts of the skyway system isn't even a skyway: it's a tunnel that runs between City Hall, the Federal Courthouse, the Grain Exchange building, and Haaf Parking Ramp. If you blink, you'll walk right past the door. It feels like a secret hidden in the lower level of City Hall.

Stairway under City Hall, or Dracula's crypt entrance?

Then you go down a flight of stairs and end up in what feels like a lunchroom in Purgatory: gray, hard, and empty, but with free napkins and a few vending machines. It's a strange place and feels very in-between. I have rarely seen any other person down there - and the spookiness has just begun.

Once you leave City Hall, this is what you enter:
So welcoming!

Is this a Kafka-esque nightmare? Or am I actually still underneath the city of Minneapolis? One thing is for sure: it's super creepy. Other people are few and far between. The farther I get, the faster I walk, as the terror begins to set in. If you like feeling as if you're in a slasher flick or wish you could have been in The Shining, head down there ASAP.

View towards downtown

But my favorite chunk of skyway is a crossing over 3rd Avenue, between 3rd Street and Washington Avenue. It's between a quiet and usually empty Wells Fargo operations building (very calming - the HVAC system makes great white noise) and the new Parallel 45 building (and, on street level, Lickety Split and Rick's Cabaret).

View towards NE

One reason I like it so much is that it seems largely unused; the eastern end of the Skyway system is much less populated than on Nicollet or around the IDS Center, and it's between two buildings that don't see much action, so passers-by are infrequent. It's the only public space I've found downtown that gives me a sense of quiet privacy, and I used to go there to both think and zone out during the workday. I've had many contemplative moments there, looking out towards the 3rd Avenue bridge and Northeast Minneapolis.

I'm not sure what it says about my psychology that I love what are essentially huge hallways. The symbolism of a series of hallways speaks to a search for meaning? The sensation of getting lost in such a maze-like web? The feeling of being at once surrounded by other people, yet ultimately alone, is the physical experience of existential nihilism? Who knows. All I know is that I love it.