The first winter storm of the season made it too hard to drive to Southdale or Home Depot. So last Saturday, my husband, our 28-year-old daughter and I did the old-fashioned thing — we went downtown to go Christmas shopping. Instead of traversing the Giraffe parking lot in pelting snow, we could park at Dayton’s (well, you know where), leave our coats in the car and stroll through the skyways.
“I feel like I’m 4 again,” daughter Leslie said as we looked out on the snow-encased Nicollet Mall from the skyway between Macy’s (still Dayton’s to some of us) and the IDS Center.
Design experts, especially those from other places, love to decry the skyways and the way they sap life from the street. But we were singing their praises. We checked out the new Brooks Brothers store in City Center, enjoyed a little hot chocolate at Williams-Sonoma and carried our goodies back to the car in coatless, climate-controlled comfort.
Footloose, fancy-free and coatless!
That evening was a repeat. We made the short drive downtown without trouble and parked in the ancient Mar-Ten ramp. (We love the red neon sign announcing it is “Vacant.”) We left our coats crumpled in the car and popped into the International Centre skyway for the two-block walk to Orchestra Hall.
On every corner, police cars were sitting with lights flashing, creating an ominous feel. As we crossed the Marquette Avenue skyway, a police car pulled into the intersection, and a policeman jumped out and held up his arms to stop traffic. What’s going on, we wondered as two other police cars headed down Marquette. Some dignitary must be in town.
Then behind the police cars we spied a Holidazzle float. One after another, the 13 darkened floats pulled into view and swung confidently around the corner, despite the slippery snow. Most of the drivers were hidden inside drums or thrones, but the driver of the pirate ship stood at the wheel and turned it as if hewing into the wind. The police car bringing up the rear turned the corner and spun out. Obviously floats are better in snow.
Next stop: Orchestra Hall
Later, we nestled into our third-row seats to hear Minnesota Orchestra members star in a program called Concerti Parti. Fingertips vibrating with passion, principal cellist Tony Ross played Dvorak’s lyrical “Silent Woods” and Tchaikovsky’s rich “Variations on a Rococo Theme.” A drop of sweat darkened a rivulet on his cello. Ross exchanged sly glances with visiting Spanish conductor Gilbert Varga and ended phrases with a bravura flip of the bow.
Beth Rapier, an orchestra cellist married to Ross, finally gave up playing to wipe away her tears. With the last slash of her husband’s bow the audience jumped to its feet.
Next up was piccolo player Roma Duncan Kansara, a tall blonde with a dazzling smile. She strode onto the stage in a red off-the-shoulder gown that fit snugly around her slightly pregnant tummy. She stood tall, raised her piccolo high and, playing with her eyes as well as her lips, swayed to the music of Vivaldi’s “Concerto in C Major for Piccolo and Orchestra.” Again, the audience sprang to its feet.
As we shuffled back through the skyway with the happy crowd, the usual accordion player was sawing away near the doors to the parking ramp. His hat was unusually full.