The newsroom here, like most newsrooms in Minnesota, is “all hands on deck” covering the shutdown. It’s quality coverage, to be sure. We imagine everyone hanging on our every word, even if it’s just analyzing why one side is calling the other side “liars.”
I don’t conduct scientific surveys of what people are interested in; I tend to choose them at random and see how their lives are going and where the news fits in, if it fits in at all.
James Taylor of St. Paul was standing at the I-494 on-ramp at Tamarack Road in Woodbury this morning, with a cardboard sign that said “White Bear Avenue.” When I stopped and motioned for him to get in the NewsCutMobile, he was still bemused by the woman who’d just stopped, given him $10, said “God bless you,” and drove off, presumably in the general direction of White Bear Avenue.
“I apologize for sweating,” he said as he fit a too-big frame into a too-small car, “but this air conditioning is great.”
“It works pretty well as long as I’m moving but it just blows air when I stop at traffic lights,” I said, before adding, “so I don’t stop at traffic lights anymore.” Apparently, that was the funniest thing he’d heard all day, which started out with him hitchiking in the other direction, he indicated.
He had to make a payment on a storage unit in Woodbury today, but his vehicle — a Jeep — is broken down with a bad transmission. “The guy was nice enough not to charge me late fees,” he said.
“But it’s the first of the month,” I said.
“I’m a month behind.”
I didn’t get a chance to find out what a guy from St. Paul’s East Side is doing with a storage locker full of stuff in Woodbury because by then we’d exchanged names and he wanted to tell me that his inspires one of his dreams: To open up a bar or restaurant featuring people with famous names without the famous talent. He’s got Steve Miller from South Dakota on board, he said. Some dreams die hard.
When he asked, I told him I work for Minnesota Public Radio, which happened to be playing on the radio as Gary Eichten asked former state finance boss Pam Wheelock if one side calls someone else “a liar,” does that make it harder to settle the state shutdown?
“I talk to people,” I said. “I leave the big stories to real reporters. I like to talk to people and find out how they spend their day.”
He asked if I only talk to Minnesotans and when I said “no,” his face lit up. He had the perfect person for me to talk to: the Texas preacher who, he said, has inspired him to turn his life around — the one who was once homeless and is now a millionaire. James said he’s now an inspirational speaker, too.
“You know what the secret is, Bob?” he asked. “Gratitude. I’m very grateful for everything I’ve got.” If you’re consistently grateful, he said, you don’t have to depend on the state for help.
“It’s probably a bad time to depend on the state,” I said.
“That’s right,” he said. “It’s like MPR; they’re probably grateful to the private donors so they don’t have to depend on the state for money.”
“Imagine,” I said.
By then we’d reached his street and he told me to let him off right behind the broken-down Jeep, and he was off to inspire others and be grateful for the chance to do so.
I went back to the shutdown with no similar sentiment.