Each year I make a list of new things I want to try. Some of them are emotionally or physically challenging, a lot of them will make you question how I became an adult without doing them. You can read about previous adventures here.
Are you guys ready for the nerdiest hobby you’ve never heard of?
I like to call said hobby ‘house walks.’
Before she up and moved (weep!) my BFF and I loved to walk the streets of my neighborhood and make up stories about the people who lived behind the bricked, ivied facades.
“He’s a corporate lawyer and she’s a social worker. They met in college at improv, back when he was an English major and thought he was going to become a journalist who would share truths with the world. She’s really into gardening but isn’t very good at it and he’s too sweet to just tell her to hire a gardener. They have two standard poodles named Simon and Garfunkel.”
And on and on and on for hours.
The weird thing is, my neighborhood is steeped in real, actual true stories that I have made zero effort to learn. Like, people whiz by my apartment on segways (!!!) while a guide shrills about architecture and gestures to the condos across the street where gangsters sipped cocktails in the basement and Scott and Zelda lived when their daughter was born.
Do I take notice of these things? I do not. I hustle past the historical plaques on my way to CVS and wonder, devotedly, if they’ll have my favorite lipstick in stock.
But I don’t want to be that person who lives in a city for years completely unaware of its history. When people ask me about the mob and our capital city I don’t want to be all “Mu-huh?” (shrug)
Which is what I currently do.
So last weekend, I corralled two of my favorite ladies and we wandered around in the sunshine with 15 other nerdy, historical souls learning about rich people and our fair city.
Olden day millionaires had no qualms about having favorite children, announcing to everyone who their favorite child was, giving them their company and then building them a mansion next door.
Olden day millionaires were also so rich and so concerned about their legacies, they would pull down their old mansion and reuse the bricks in their new carriage house out of fear that someone would turn their previous home into ….. an apartment building! Horrors!
You can be a totally famous radio personality, live on a fancy-ass street in a nice house, and drive an old Volvo. Which everyone will agree is The Cutest.
Want to impress your neighbors? Put the expensive, glossy bricks on the front of the house and use matte, stock-standard stuff on the rest of your house. Apparently, that’s why it was called ‘the gilded age.’
Want to not impress your neighbors? Put brightly colored plastic Adirondack chairs and a gas grill in front of your multi-million dollar historical mansion.
Things the historical society would rather you didn’t do: have a garage that faces the street. Gah-ross.
It’s possible to buy an honest-to-god, 14-bedroom, historic home (in need of many repairs) for 1.1 million dollars. Doesn’t that seem shockingly low? I have a friend in NYC whose one-bedroom cost that much.
St. Paul’s most famous citizen – F. Scott Fitzgerald – wasn’t a particularly kind or agreeable human. Apparently, when his grandmother died (from whom he got all his money before he was famous) he wrote in his diary “Grandmother died today. Her greatest gift.” Guy, come on.