Room Without a View

Monday, 11 October 2010 07:48 AM Written by 

ST. PAUL, MINN. --  6:45 a.m., Super 8, Room 125

I was unfair to Super 8.

I was silly and paranoid to think my RAV4 was in danger overnight in this neighborhood -- about which I know nothing except that last night it was both dark and spooky and bright with the lights of commerce. 

I guess two straight nights sleeping under the lights at Walmarts had spoiled me. I saw shadows and imagined a 3 a.m. car theft or break in. 

I felt better at dawn when I looked out and saw this BP station and Subway through my semi-transparent window.DSC_0037

Today I head for Fargo, N.D., by way of Sauk Centre, the town John Steinbeck made a point of driving through because it was the birthplace of his former buddy "Red" Sinclair Lewis, or was it Sinclair "Red" Lewis?Sinclair_Lewis_1930

Anyway, Steinbeck knew by 1960 that after he died his fame was going to be exploited by his hometown of Salinas, Calif., the town whose people and places showed up in his books, more often than not in unflattering ways.

Lewis satirized small-town life and small-town businessmen. He wasn't particularly fond of American culture or capitalism, though his success at skewering it in his novels brought him riches and fame.

Steinbeck was curious how Lewis' hometown treated its famous son, whose books "Main Street" and "Babbitt" were fictionalized and uncomplimentary versions of the good folks of Sauk Centre.

Steinbeck ended up just driving through Sauk Centre. Maybe I'll find out why later today when the Steinbeck Highway takes me there.

Local traffic: The young ovenight guy at the desk says I'm four miles from downtown St. Paul, a city of 295,000. If Mesa, Ariz., hasn't already passed Pittsburgh in the population race, St. Paul is another threat to outnumber the 'burgh.

St. Paul doesn't have a major league baseball team. Either.

But I've been here less than 12 hours and I already know St. Paul has something Pittsburgh doesn't have but needs if it wants to keep from sliding under the (totally meaningless) 300,000 population number -- immigrants.

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