Simple pleasures of my Downtown

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November 26, 2002 // UPDATED 1:33 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Stephanie Watson
Stephanie Watson

Serenaded by clock towers, soothed by a strangely solitary hot tub --how one south Minneapolitan became a devoted Downtowner

While I was growing up in south Minneapolis, the Downtown skyline was only one inch tall from our attic window, and if it was foggy, the little dollhouse city disappeared completely. Even though my family went to Twins games and 4th of July fireworks near Riverplace, Downtown was always a place "over there."

A few months ago, my husband and I moved into the Riverwest Apartments near the

Mississippi riverfront so he could be closer to his job. At first it was strange to open the blinds and have Downtown fill up the whole window; to have "over there" become "right here." It didn't take long before I was loving city life in the building that, as a kid, I had always thought was a hotel. It's the simple things about my new home that have made me, a born south Minneapolisphile, pledge my allegiance to Downtown.

First, nothing's more than a few blocks away. The Aveda Institute, home of the $11 haircut and the $35 hair foil, is just a short walk across the 3rd Avenue Bridge. The best Dunn Bros coffee house in the city -- the one with free internet use and a steady stream of live musicians -- is kitty-corner from my balcony. I can walk to the Open Book, which houses the Loft Literary Center and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, in the time it takes me to drink my Dunn Bros tea. Being so close to the historic St. Anthony Main area makes me feel like I'm in a mystery story - "Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Pillsbury Mill."

Also fitting into my cozy delusion of being in Nancy Drewland are the romantic old clocks atop City Hall and the Milwaukee Road Depot. I can see both from my living room window, and there is something wonderful about finding out the time from these city clocks, rather than the green digital panel on my microwave. At certain times of the day, one of the clocks (or is it St. Olaf's church? - I have yet to investigate) rings its bells. Back when the Twins had a shot, the bells played a slow, tuneless version of 'We're Gonna Win Twins," which was oddly comforting.

There are great things specific to Riverwest, too. Once every month, our lovely manager Sharon puts on this "Meet and Greet" table down in the lobby with strawberries and muffins and juice. I started going to get the free food, but now I look forward to stopping by and meeting a few people, hearing some stories, and even getting advice. Last time I went, I talked to this nice older man and Sharon about a grease fire that had broken out a few days earlier, causing water damage in 18 apartments. Marcelo and I had been cheap about getting renter's insurance, but as I stood there eating my fifth strawberry, imagining coming home to a waterlogged laptop, I realized insurance ain't a bad idea.

My favorite thing about Riverwest, though, is the communal hot tub. I use it devoutly, but I seem to be the only one who does. When I've raved to a few residents about the hot tub, they've almost all given me an 'ick' face. One man even said to me, "Ew, who knows what people do in there." Hey man, here's what they do: People (me) read entire books, drink filtered water from the Culligan tank in the exercise room, press their bad backs against the one good jet and marvel at the fact that no one else ever uses the fabulous facility.

Ick factor aside, it seems that a lot of residents stay away from the RW tub because they've already used the facilities at their "real" gyms. That's cool, no prob, more hot tub time for me. Still others might be frightened away by the odd list of rules inscribed in plastic above the whirlpool: "Number three: No using the hot tub alone. Number seven: No elderly people." Look, there are quite a few older people in the building, and though I don't know how old "elderly" is, the rule seems to have been interpreted strictly by many of them.

So in the end, I've got the whole tub to myself. At the close of the day, when everyone else is actively staying away from the hot tub, I'm dissolving away stress in my pink bikini, being careful not to get the pages of "Paddington the Bear" wet. When I look up from my book, I see a nearby window, full with the view of my Downtown, and I'm happy that it's so big, and that I'm "right here."