March 6, 2003


I had to meet Paul at the Ripsaw office for some super-duper secret Geek Prom business. The Ripsaw office is in downtown Duluth in the Torrey Building, right next to the Building of Health and Vigor. Both buildings are old and I love ’em for it. The Building of Health and Vigor has a grand marble lobby, and while the Torrey Building is much more modest in presentation, it has its qualities as well. Old dirty brick on the outside. Clean with bright stone on the inside.

Best of all, these buildings have elevators. Beautiful old elevators with doors of brushed metal in checkerboard patterns that moan as they strain shut. Occasionally, as the car rattles and claws up to the ninth floor, the sound of someone tipping a tray of wine glasses down the chute clatters through the mix. It’s a bit scary, but as are all experiences that are worth a dime. It’s physical, it’s tactile.

Memories and life are made of stuff like this. Whenever we think of a bygone era we usually think of the wars or crises or apocalypsi that marked that time, but I think this gives us a rather inaccurate representation on how life really was back then. Life is made up of jumbles of small details that never get written down because they’re so ordinary. The sound of an elevator, the smell of a hair pomade, the feel of a cold metal banister… we’re inundated with so much of this stuff day after day that it becomes invisible, but to an outsider it would all be simultaneously dazzling and horrifying.

Riding in these elevators I can imagine the troupes of men and fedoras on their daily jaunt to work, bundled up with a cigarette against a frigid March day. These old buildings once had hey-days, when they had brightly colored ads for washing machines slathered along their sides and the name of their company carved in stone. Now they house an abstract tile company, a bunch of orthepedics and an alt-weekly newspaper. They offer stunning views of Lake Superior and T-1 Internet access.

Geeky? Just geeky enough.