Saturday, May 13, 2017

On La Salle



We had trouble with the telephone conference call. I sat next to the director of human resources for the City. The City Manager was present as well as the Chief of Police. Finally, a HR manager succeeded in reaching the workers compensation supervisor. A cop employed by my client, the City of Austin, was off-work due to a fatal shooting in which he had been involved and we were concerned that this leave had morphed from administrative absence, pending a prosecutor’s verification that the shooting was lawful, into sick leave or, even, temporary total disability under the worker’s compensation law. The conversation involved some complex legal questions and took longer than I expected and so I didn’t depart Austin for Minneapolis until 5:30 pm. I was scheduled to attend a seminar the next day and had decided to travel to Minneapolis after work so as to avoid the hassle of morning traffic delaying my way to the downtown classroom.

I stopped in Owatonna for gas and bought some Fritos to eat in the car. The skies were gloomy in southern Minnesota and I could see little fragments of cloud ripped from the main mass of the storm blowing by overhead – the torn, fleeing clouds seemed panic-stricken It had been a rainy spring and some of the places where the fields were flooded were still underwater, nasty-looking ponds in the furrows lingering long enough to grow mats of yellow-green algae.

The sky cleared at Northfield and the roads were wet but there was no more rain. In downtown Minneapolis, the horizons were open and clear and the sky had a washed look – the pale blue had been scoured until it had thinned to reveal yellow underneath. It was mid-May and, in this latitude, the sun lingers for a long time overhead and the streets were still sunlit at 7:30 pm when I made my way through the skyway from the Target Center ramp to the hotel. Across from my room, there was a huge image of a climber on the Needles in South Dakota’s Black Hills, a handsome-looking fellow gazing across the mountaintop crowned by sheer pillars eroded into the shape of pawns and other chess pieces. The picture was an advertisement encouraging tourism to South Dakota and its green and blue colors were refreshing above the blocks of drab-looking concrete and the dirty streets where crowds of people were waiting for buses and teasing one another with displays of minor-league criminality – men catcalled at women and girls fought among themselves and everyone was cursing or drinking from cans in paper sacks or spitting on the sidewalk.

I was hungry and so I went down onto the street and walked across Hennepin, looking for a place to eat. I had the sense that I was momentarily free, liberated from wife and children, left to my own devices in the hustle and excitement of the city. I could do anything I wanted, get into all sorts of mischief, carouse and feast and howl like a wolf at the big new moon that would shortly be impaled on the glass lances of the skyscrapers. I didn’t have any agenda, no place that I had to go, and so I wandered along the sidewalks, enjoying the mild breeze and the sweet-smelling air and the seemingly limitless light lingering in the sky over the city. I was an explorer crossing virgin territory, approaching the rapids on an unnamed river where the falling water had ionized the air with fragrant ozone.

After a couple blocks, I found myself on a silent street. It was 9th and I came to the intersection with La Salle, a place that I have known all my life. The big buildings were becoming obtuse, incommunicative, dense, as the shadows began to fall onto them. Across the street, the old YMCA building extended its brick walls pierced with innumerable windows up to pale frieze capping the tower. The frieze was also porous with several vaulting arches and had a vaguely Gothic appearance and, above that height, the sky was vast and silent. I gazed up at all the windows at the YMCA overlooking the intersection at 9th and La Salle and saw that they were dark and that they revealed nothing of the interior of the old building. Down the street, I saw the square block of the old Dayton’s department store, closed now and, perhaps, even unoccupied. La Salle was still as always, the lanes of road vacant and empty and, next to the sidewalk, I saw the old parking ramp, about five or six decks supported by concrete pylons and rising up above me, the edges of each level barricaded by the kind of wood post and steel guardrails that you used to encounter defending canyon depths or deep and precipitous river gorges from cars driving in the mountain. I remember that my father had always parked in that ramp when I was a child and that I knew it very well and the odd thing was that I had thought the ramp closed and demolished at least a dozen years before. I rubbed my eyes and looked more closely and the ramp was still there, just about exactly as it had always been, resurrected it seemed but still filthy-looking and humble, something raised up above ground that we have now been taught to regard as more properly buried beneath the surface. I had been an anxious child, easily frightened, and I recall that when my father parked in that lot with the nose of his car facing out over the street, I was always afraid that he would lose control, hit the accelerator when he intended the brake, and drive us through the wood and metal guardrail to crash down to destruction from the modest heights of the ramp.

I stood for a moment looking at the parking ramp. I felt eyes on me from overhead. Someone was looking down on me from the YMCA building across the street. This sense of being under aerial surveillance made me nervous and I felt hungry, peckish, and so I hurried down the street. Several of the intersections had been ripped open and, in the yellow clay ditches, I could see some old tiles, a lead pipe capped-off, a bundle of wires.

I ate at Hell’s Kitchen. The restaurant was in a basement about a block from the old Foshay Tower, once the tallest building in the Northwest. I had a 15 dollar hamburger cooked medium rare with bacon on it and a big knuckle-sized daub of peanut butter. For some reason, the cole slaw was unpleasantly spicy – I felt the pepper burning on my lips and tongue. The waitress had a dragon tattooed on her forearm. A basketball game was playing on ESPN in the next room and I idly watched and tried to eavesdrop on the conversations nearby.

It was dark on the street after I finished my supper. My feeling of festive isolation had faded. The President had just fired FBI director, James Comey. The young people at the bus stop gossiping and insulting one another no longer seemed amusing to me. In place of my former feelings of adventure and excitement, I now felt a very faint and poignant loneliness. As I passed the YMCA, again I felt eyes on me once more, someone staring down with a burning gaze at the sidewalk over which I was walking.



Old Minneapolis, north of where it is plugged into the freeway, is a grid of streets running southwest to northeast. The grid is rectilinear but tilted because the north side of this street system parallels the Mississippi River. Minneapolis was founded at a place where waterfalls could support grain mills by providing hydroelectric power. The waterfalls chaotically plunged – they have now been tamed by locks and concrete aprons – down a course of the river that flows from northwest to southeast and the city streets where Minneapolis was founded mirror those directions.

For some reason, unclear to me, Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis’ Broadway, approaches the river from the south at a diagonal that is less acute. This means that the distance between Hennepin and the adjacent streets increases south of about 7th Street (First Street parallels the river). At 9th Street, the distance between Hennepin and the grid has broadened to the point that an extra street can be inserted between Hennepin and the street system that parallels Hennepin in the old riverfront part of town, that grid bounded on its west by Nicollet Avenue. La Salle names the street interposed in this location.

(It should be observed that the French - Belgian priest, Father Hennepin, was the first White man to enter the terrifying and trackless forests of Minnesota and that he discovered the great falls on the Mississippi, a natural phenomenon that he named after St. Anthony. Since Minneapolis’ principal north-south avenue crosses the Mississippi just above St. Anthony Falls, the thoroughfare is named after Father Hennepin. The westernmost north-south street in the old grid system in Nicollet, named after a much later French explorer who mapped the upper basin of the Mississippi and parts of North and South Dakota in the 1830's. To the east of Nicollet, we encounter Marquette Avenue – this city street is named after Father Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit who explored and mapped many places in Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. Marquette died of dysentery in what is now Ludington, Michigan at age 37 – this was during the second half of the 17th century. Rene-Robert Cavalier de La Salle, another 17th century French explorer, gives his name to the street inserted between Hennepin and Nicollet, the first north-south avenue to fit within the triangular-shaped sector between those two streets. La Salle claimed the center of what is now the United States for France and deposited his name all over the the country from the Gulf of Mexico to Ontario. Exploring was a notoriously tough business – Father Hennepin discovered the falls on the Mississippi during a forced march when he was a prisoner of a Lakota war party; Nicollet died in bed in Washington in 1843, but Marquette and de La Salle were both victims of their explorations – de La Salle was murdered by one of his own men somewhere in Texas in the wake of a mutiny. It would be a useful mnemonic if the Minneapolis avenues were ordered from west to east according to the historical chronology of the explorers honored by those street names – but, unfortunately, this is not the case. Rather, the streets are ranked according to the historical impact of the figures on the old Northwest territory: Hennepin comes first because he found the falls on which the city is based; Nicollet is second for mapping the region. It’s not clear to me that the other two Frenchmen even reached this part of the country, but I may be mistaken.)

This is all an elaborate, and superfluous, digression my real concern – my memories of La Salle Avenue and most particularly the La Salle avenue parking ramp. Everyone is an explorer for their first 30 years, everyone treks the lonesome wilderness of the city when they are young, learning the unfamiliar streets and making a mental map of the passages through the tall buildings, avoiding ambushes in the alleys and Apaches on the street corners. We’re all La Salle and Marquette, Hennepin and Nicollet in some humble sense when we first come to Minneapolis and first traverse it and, then, return later for work or to explore its bars and theaters. Discovering a new place is always an adventure and this is true no less of Mary Richards as played by Mary Tyler Moore venturing onto Nicollet Avenue and famously throwing her hat into the air in sheer jubilation at the brave new world opening its arms to her as Father Hennepin standing in the frozen mist of the Falls and celebrating Mass on New Years’s Day atop the rude altar of a boulder next to the thunderous din of the river. For reasons I will explain shortly, La Salle was my place of first and most reliable ingress into the city – it was my first trail hacked into the darkness of the metropolis.

When I was young, my family lived in the suburbs but every couple months we would go down into Minneapolis to shop or visit the Public Library where there was a small museum with a ragged-looking mummy and a small planetarium. Our shopping trips always ended at Dayton’s, a department store at the corner of 8th and Hennepin Avenue. My father seemed to know only one place to park in Minneapolis and this was the La Salle ramp, an unobtrusive five or six story stack of concrete decks a block from 9th Street where La Salle avenue dead-ended. The La Salle ramp was easy to reach – for some reason, most of the routes from the freeways accessing the city came within a block or two of that parking lot. And, unlike almost all of the other surrounding streets, La Salle allowed two-way traffic. This meant it was equally easy to come and go from the ramp on that avenue.

More well-heeled people, or those simply less thrifty, parked in the Dayton’s ramp, a dark subterranean maze tucked under the department store. Indeed, the Dayton’s ramp was probably the ne plus ultra in convenience. The entrance to the ramp disgorged directly onto La Salle – it was a straight shot from the bowels of the building onto La Salle with an option to turn west (NW really) on the one way at 9th or east (SE really) on the one-way at 8th. In other words, traffic routes abounded and, better yet, La Salle was a backwater – since the avenue dead-ended at the Dayton’s department store on 8th, the street was generally deserted. But we never ventured into that ramp – it was too claustrophobic and the cars were too shiny and new and expensive in those underground corridors and my father wasn’t willing to pay the extra dollar-fifty an hour required to put your car in that place. We could walk a block from the La Salle ramp to Dayton’s – this was fine and reasonable and, further, allowed for some discipline, merited by sibling squabbles in the car as we walked the intervening block. La Salle led to busy places, but was not busy itself – rather, it was (and remains) a kind of oasis apart from the insistent and heavy traffic on the surrounding streets. One-ways preclude turns and, in downtown Minneapolis, at many times of the day, a left turn, if allowed is functionally impossible – but this has never been the case on becalmed and placid La Salle.

My father was born in a tiny town in central Nebraska and he was never comfortable driving in a big city. But he knew his way to the La Salle ramp and could reach that place unerringly and, so, that was where we always parked when we came downtown. I would like to say that I have many memories of the La Salle ramp, but this isn’t true. In fact, all my memories have blurred together into a single composite.

Before Christmas, the store windows at Dayton’s were lavishly decorated. People stood on the sidewalk admiring the displays: white sparkling sheets of snow draped over little cottages with lit windows, Santa and his reindeer sweeping across a sky of twinkling stars like a red and white comet. Mechanized gnomes loafing the artificial snow grinned and gestured and, in still comfortable rooms, stockings were hung by the fireside with care in hopes that Saint Nick soon would be there and, as we pressed our faces close to the glass, gawking at the displays, we saw our own reflections, our avid eyes, the ghostly fog of our breath on the cold pane, and hanging behind our winter coats and stocking caps, brightly lit and gaudy decorations decking the street lamps and suspended on wires hanging over the avenues. Christmas music was piped onto the sidewalks and people were caroling at the corners and the big jewel box of the department store was all outlined in Christmas tree bulbs. The ice in the air shimmered and it was very cold and the streets ran black and slushy between grey ramparts of filthy snow.

In Dayton’s, books were sold on the third or fourth floor, among men’s tailored suits and near glass cases that displayed fine watches and cuff-links. A couple of cases held numismatic curiosities, expensive sets of old stamps and gold coins and specially minted commemorative medallions and, then, there were trays of pipes sculpted from beautiful polished wood, pocket-knives and Swiss-army knives with blades extended like the glistening many arms of a Hindu goddess, portfolios of autographs for sale and old rare books resting on cushions of velvet. Beyond several featureless mannequins, a sort of library occupied a dim and shadowy niche – the books stood upright on shelves made from rosewood or mahogany and there were easy chairs and old men, exhausted by their Christmas shopping, were sitting there, sweating under their great-coats, paging idly through books like Kon Tiki or a folio-sized edition reproducing paintings by Van Gogh or Raphael. Supercilious clerks glided through the shelves of books and their faces were painted masks, as if the mannequins had mysteriously come to life to act as your valet, your librarian, your tobacconist.

Elsewhere chaos reigned and the air smelled of perfume and shop girls with immense dark eyes that were all outlined in charcoal leaned forward to show their holiday decolletage over trays of gems and necklaces. The floor was all sooty and slick with black slush by the doorways to the outside but deeper into the building, the tiles on the floor were clean and, by the time you reached the escalators, there was no trace of the grime or dirty snow or the cold from outside, winter was completely absent except in the coats and hats and scarves worn by the customers and it was strange to seem people dressed that way, stolidly plodding between headless mannequins wearing only the slightest and most lacy negligees. On the fifth or sixth floor of the Dayton’s department store, there was a cafĂ© – really a very fine restaurant – where you could sit and enjoy champagne and eat grilled walleye for lunch. We never patronized that restaurant because it was too expensive and too highfalutin’ . Instead, my mother took me to the Nanking, an immense Chinese cafeteria with gilded dragons carved into wall-posts and mirrored alcoves and, even a sort of choir loft, a balcony where you could eat in splendor overlooking the vast dining room filled with people and their coats and black rubber boots. It was a true treat and novelty to eat at a table suspended in air, above the multitude, on that balcony. The waitresses were all tiny Chinese girls wearing silk blouses and skirts and with their hair up and held in place by diamond-headed stickpins.

At the door into Dayton’s, entering from the sidewalk where La Salle dead-ended, there was a small area within the store that sold gourmet foods. You could buy shortbread in a long box wrapped in Scottish tartan, escargot in tins and sardines canned in Norway; there were English crackers and several types of German mustard, Spanish octopus in red wine sauce and chocolate-dipped crickets and ants. Beyond the gourmet grocery, there was a long and narrow arcade stretching from through the center of the block and occupied by a sort of bazaar, booths and tiny stores with macrame or beaded curtains at the entrances, carpet salesmen and dark-skinned women selling gypsy scarves, a corridor where you had to pass through each merchant’s store to make your way between the cold and icy streets outside – here you could buy gag tee-shirts and ties, snow-globes and Minneapolis souvenirs, risque magazines and calenders, all sorts of ephemeral stuff that couldn’t be classified and that didn’t really belong to any well-recognized category of merchandise, household furnishings for brothels or Victorian mansions, hookahs, and pet-sweaters, African masks, and ornamental samurai swords for your walls, everything garish and over-priced, all those goods that Dayton’s, the dignified dowager on the Nicollet Mall was unwilling to carry in its inventory.

Somehow, you had walked miles and icy cold had seeped up into their limbs and you couldn’t feel your feet at all and, somewhere, Santa was cackling merrily and the storefronts all oozed lights and Christmas decorations, and the sun was setting so that the streets were shadowy and you limped along – it was only a block on La Salle, a quiet street compared to the crowds in Daytons, and, then, you be at the ramp elevator and a minute later in your car. But, first, someone always had to go to the bathroom and there were two toilets, men and women, behind rusting metal doors in a tiny lounge in the parking place, next to the booth where a kid sat chainsmoking and taking money from the drivers who were lined-up to exit the ramp. The tiny lounge had the kind of harsh-looking utilitarian chairs that you associate with a bus station, metal ashtrays on stanchions that were always full of ash and butts, stacks of menu flyers for Chinese take-out places, glass walls that looked out onto the dark and colonnaded grey acreage of parking ramp’s first level – a couple of front-end loaders for snow-removal parked next to the lounge and, then, the cars, each sitting in a congealing puddle of slush and snow fallen off its bumpers and grill, the pavement and the columns supporting the decks all grey with road-salt and grime. It was a no-color place even though the cars, of course, had been sold in many colors, but the dirt in the snow and the salt on the highway had reduced all of the vehicles to the same sad and somber hue. Your feet were always cold and the lobby was 45 degrees, maybe, only scarcely heated and it smelled of spilled beer and cigarettes and cheap cologne and, on one wall, there was a big mirror where you could survey yourself, head to toe, to see if your zipper was zipped and whether your were, more or less, properly accoutered to venture out into the great world.

Then, it was dark and we drove back to New Brighton, pausing in a neighborhood where the homes all were in competition with another for the most lavish Christmas decorations. We cruised the snowy streets – in my childhood, I misremember that it was always snowing – and the display-houses were on a sort of hill, occupying terraces that rose up toward the sky, their lights ascending in ladders of many colors up the slopes to where there was a vast cemetery, buried in midnight blue drifts and no light at all. Then, we were at home and my mother took the Christmas presents in their Dayton’s shopping bags to hide and the old dachshund sleeping on the couch growled to warn us that her repose should not be interrupted. Like almost everything else in the world, she bit.

Later, we lived in another quadrant of the city suburbs, far to the southwest, but my father still faithfully used the La Salle parking ramp when we went downtown. In the summer after high school, I finally dared asked a girl in my class out on a date and, after a few exercises driving to movies in the suburbs, I invited her to go with me to see an orchestra concert downtown. This would require that I navigate the freeways to Minneapolis and, then, locate a place to park and, of course, my father didn’t think much of my driving ability – in fact, he was pretty much convinced that I was utterly without a clue when it came to anything involving hand - eye coordination. And, so, before I was authorized to take the family stationwagon downtown on this excursion, I had to first demonstrate that I could successfully make my way from the suburbs into the city and, then, upon exiting the freeway, that I could reliably find my way to the La Salle ramp, because, of course, that was where I was instructed to park. With my father hectoring me the whole way, I drove the big lumbering station wagon downtown, entered the city itself and following directions that my father bellowed in my ear, piloted my way through the one-way streets and the crowded intersections to the ramp. We entered the ramp and I parked successfully and, then, I walked the distance to the orchestra hall, my father pointing out to me a few ice-cream parlors where my date and I could enjoy a treat after the show. We calculated the walking time to the orchestra hall – only six or seven minutes, located the best route, and, then, back at the ramp I had to demonstrate that I could back successfully, find the concrete exit sluicing down to the booth next to the little filthy lobby, pay my way out and, then, find the access to the freeway that would take me home. The exercise was, more or less, successful and so I was permitted to use the car to take my girlfriend to the concert and, I suppose, that I did so, although I remember nothing at all about that experience. All that remains for me is my father’s instructions as to how to reach the La Salle ramp, his admonitions about safety, his warnings about parking in the lot so as not to become "boxed-in" and, then, the way back from the parking ramp, through the streets to reach the freeway home.

Dayton’s doesn’t exist any more. The statue of Mary Tyler Moore joyously throwing her hat in the air still stands at the intersection but the department store is long gone. The IDS tower, its glass skin the color of a Minnesota lake, still stands across the street and its crystal court, although in disrepair still opens upward as a box of glass embedded in another box of glass, next to the humming banks of elevators. The network of streets is the same, of course, although now many of the commercial buildings are occupied by hotels and not businesses. The city doesn’t make anything any more nor does it really trade anything – the people who come downtown are looking for entertainment: restaurants, bars, theaters, the big baseball field green under its lights and the football stadium. Some of the visitors want to get drunk and don’t wish to drive home intoxicated and so there are hotels downtown today, places for the tourists to stay – the buildings are the same but they have been re-purposed. What was once a bank is now an expensive hotel and the big bas-relief carved in the Depression on the facade – noble-looking yeoman farmers with Aryan features and their oxen and mechanics with sweaty brow carrying heavy wrenches and sledge-hammers, all of those stone workmen, now still march in procession across the pale yellow walls, but they seem as archaic as the processions of archers and charioteers on the half-ruined walls at Ninevah.

One day, fifteen years ago, I had business in Minneapolis near Hennepin Avenue and so I looked for the La Salle ramp. It wasn’t hard to find – all roads in central Minneapolis seem to converge on that area. But the ramp was closed. The entire structure was wrapped in visquine, shrouded in plastic as if the ramp had become a project by Christo. Barricades precluded access to the ramp and, nearby, I saw implements of destruction, a wrecking ball on a vast chain and a half-dozen graders and dump trucks. It seemed to me that the ramp’s days were numbered. A year later, I looked for the parking lot but it wasn’t there. I don’t know what had taken its place, but the ramp had gone missing. It didn’t matter as far as I was concerned. There were other places more convenient to park in downtown Minneapolis.




My father was committed to the ramp on La Salle for this reason: in 1961, when he came to Minneapolis as a new employee of Honeywell, he took a room in the YMCA across the street. He lived in that place until he could find a house suitable for his wife and three children. I don’t have a clear recollection of any of this but believe that he probably stayed at the YMCA for two or three months before returning to New Jersey to bring us west. When I was little, my father never parked in the La Salle ramp without gesturing over the guard-rail to the impassive dark, brick facade of the building across the street and mentioning that he had lived there for several months. In those days, my father drove an unpredictable and ancient Rambler and I suppose he had parked that car in the ramp overnight each evening when he came downtown after working at the Honeywell plant north of Minneapolis on Stinson Boulevard.

My father was a preacher’s son from Albion, Nebraska, a county seat on the edge of the sand hills wilderness in central Nebraska. He was married at 18 and came to Minnesota after working at a military base, Fort Monmouth near Asbury Park, New Jersey. (At Fort Monmouth, his work was tending very early versions of IBM computers.) He loved jazz and modern art and dreamed of being a beatnik in New York City, but the crush and noise and stench of the East Coast was too much for him and, so, he retreated to the more familiar prairies and corn fields of the upper Midwest. He wore black horn-rimmed glasses and had a neatly trimmed goatee.

I suppose that when he first came to Minneapolis and found a room at the YMCA, he was excited to be away from his wife and the three children, one of them a baby and the other two only five and six years old. They were poor like most people in the late fifties, just starting out, and we had lived in cramped quarters in New Jersey, at a trailer court for some of the time, and I’m sure it was a trial for a vigorous man in his mid-twenties to be trapped with women and children for much of the time. It must have been an adventure to be footless and fancy-free in Minneapolis, working in the day but with his nights free and solitary, living downtown in the very midst of things. One of my fathers’ favorite TV shows was The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the YMCA was only a block away from the corner of Nicollet and 8th where the actress would later be filmed (and immortalized) throwing her hat high in the air in front of the Dayton’s Department Store, a spontaneous gesture of freedom and jubilation at being free: as the theme song had it – "Love is all around, no need to waste it/ You can have the town, why don’t you take it? / You’re gonna make it on your own." During that hiatus from paternal obligations, I suspect my father was happy and felt liberated, ready to get into mischief and carouse and howl at the moon, except that, as a preacher’s son, and, then, married at 18, he really didn’t know how to carouse and would have had to take training and, then, make a practice of that art. And, in any event, when you’re away from wife and children, you don’t really do too much in the way of howling at the moon – instead, I suppose, you mostly feel isolated and lonely with a great sense of responsibility too heavy for your slim shoulders bearing you down.

I’m sure my father didn’t have much money and had to save to make a down payment on the house. He probably didn’t go out much at night when he lived in the YMCA. Instead, I suppose that he looked out the window, surveying the La Salle parking lot below, watching as the shadows on the streets lengthened, observing the pedestrians on the sidewalk. And, perhaps, one evening, he read his Gideon Bible for a few minutes, just long enough to feel the familiar blasphemy obligatory to him as a Lutheran pastor’s son returning, and, then, he opened his window to let the breeze into his airless room and gazing down toward the La Salle ramp, saw an old man on the sidewalk, a geezer with a bald spot visible from his vantage above in the YMCA. The old man paused and seemed to look for a long time at the La Salle ramp and I wonder if my father thought: this old guy looks somehow familiar to me but it can’t be that I know him because I don’t have any family or kin in this city, and, anyway, I’m not acquainted with anyone as old as this man who seems to be surveying the parking ramp with a bemused sort of amazement and wonder. And, as he watched, the old man turned and looked up at the YMCA and my father thought, I wonder if he can see me here, in this dark room – it’s getting to be night-time and I should turn on the lamp – but can he see me? because he is peering up here as if gazing into very deep darkness and I wonder if he sees me looking down on him.

My father died when he was 58. I am now 62.

My mother read this essay and observed that I had taken license with the facts.  At the time that my father lived in the downtown YMCA, there were four kids in the family.  She also recalls the house in Asbury Park, actually the adjacent suburb, Wannamassa, as "quite roomy."