Nothing like a 20-year class reunion to bring home the passage of time.
I flew home this week after attending multiple reunion cocktail parties replete with conversations centered on questions like, “So, how you been”? All was not dull though. There were my awkward assurances that, of course, I remembered the person who turned out to have been my roommate sophomore year. There was the past acquaintance that now works at Morgan Stanley, to which I could think of nothing more intelligent to ask than if any of his colleagues had been to jail. There was the friendly frat-ish type trying to rekindle nonexistent past romances with my wife and subsequent worries that my head might explode before I could make it to the rental car.
20 years is a pittance, however, compared to the time which some of this town’s more venerable, valuable, and as it turns out fragile businesses have seen. This week, Jerabeks bakery announced it was calling it quits after more than 100 years on St Paul’s West side. This news comes in the same month that the Artist’s Quarter jazz club announced that it too was closing its doors by the end of the year (not to mention Linder’s Garden Center and College of Visual Arts shuttering earlier this year).
Jerabek’s and the Artist’s Quarter both, it seems to me, made you feel after a visit like it had been too long since your last one. You’d promise yourself to revisit soon, and then, months or even years would somehow go by. Both offered authentic types of experiences not available anywhere else in the Twin Cities. The closing of the Artist Quarter in particular, with its black interior and no frills attention to jazz music, signals a scary and obvious discussion on the viability of jazz itself to a younger generation in Minnesota. Likewise, Jerabek’s serves food in a style popular with past generations with pastries, like the kolache and pasty, and sandwiches made on sliced loaf bread, just like mom used to make—simple and homey.
Many of us, me included, focus our attention on the newest places. Some of us even keep lists of the places we haven’t made it to yet, checking them off as we go. Many of us too, feel the loss of neighborhood gems and nationally acclaimed music venues, and know we have nobody but ourselves to blame.
What’s the answer? Maybe we need Kickstarter fundraising classes for businesses of a certain age, or public subsidies for places that serve the cultural good, or tax incentives, or free advertising. Or maybe, if you share a college dorm room with a guy, even 20 years ago, you should try to remember his damned name.