Saturday, September 27, 2008

Remembering Cedarvale and Making Memories

I didn't get out on the road until 11:00 this morning. Kind of a slow start but I've got to pace myself as I have to work until midnight tonight. I'll be filling in for Reid in a few weeks but other than that this will be my last Saturday night for a while as I'm changing my days off and not necessarily for the better. I have some misgivings about the change as I like the crew I've been working with and it's only going to become a better crew with some of the newer guys being added to it. I'm going back to the days off I had for years and to an older, less enthusiastic group of guys. I can't complain. At least I have a choice.

I like to think I'm aware of changes to the world around me when I'm out on my bike but apparently that's not so true. I was riding northeast on highway 13 today just east of Cedar avenue under a low overcast sky . It's an area which usually has a fair amount of traffic moving along at 55 mph or more with the added complications of a cloverleaf and the associated on and off ramps. When I go through this stretch I'm usually focused on seeing where I'll fit into the traffic flow and safely threading my way through.

I happened to look off in the near distance beyond the traffic merging to my right as I traversed this area and I noticed that the landscape had changed. Where did Cedarvale mall go? Maybe I'm looking in the wrong area...maybe the mall is a bit further down I thought to myself. No...it's supposed to be here. I took a right at the light and doubled back.

The mall and several other buildings were no more. Wow...when did this happen? I used to know every nook and cranny of this area when I lived in the Ballentrae apartments a few blocks from here in 1986. I was a member at U.S. Swim and Fitness for years at Cedarvale mall in the late 80's and early 90's. As I slowly pedaled my way past where the mall used to be I imagined where the building was in relation to the parking lot which remained.

It was a thriving place back then with a Baskin Robbins, Pizza Hut and Valley Bike next to the mall. Those too are now gone. The parking lot was always full and buzzing with traffic.

Sometime in the 90's I noticed more and more that the mall was looking tired and worn. The mall's anchor, Ben Franklin, was still there then but other stores in the mall seemed to change more frequently. Cedarvale was looking dated when compared to some of the newer shopping centers not far away. I don't suppose the Mall of America just across the river or Eagan Town Centre a few miles east helped matters much.

I stopped coming here regularly around 1992 when I let my health club membership lapse after having surgery on my knee. I was a runner. In another life my wife and I would go to the club together. She would use the equipment and take aerobics classes while I would head out for a run down by the river or any one of several other routes I had.

It was after a 9.5 mile run on a crisp winter afternoon that I came back to the mall and entered through the entrance by the snack bar. I still had my headphones on listening to my music as I walked through the doors to see maybe a couple dozen people looking on as a woman pleaded for anyone to help her. She was standing behind her mother who was seated in a chair in front of her. Her mother was maybe in her 60s and she was obviously in distress. The daughter screamed that her mother was choking and could somebody please help her. Nobody was moving in their direction. It was a surreal moment as I watched this with the music playing in my head. I suppose it helped that just moments earlier I was running hard and was now in a cool-down, endorphin filled state of mind. I didn't hesitate. I moved behind the mother and had her stand. I'd seen an instructional sign in our lunch room at work showing the correct way too perform the Heimlich maneuver. I placed my fist near her sternum and thrust it toward me once, maybe twice until a piece of sandwich dislodged. I picked up her drink and had her take some sips and seated her back down. It couldn't have been more than two minutes from the time I walked through the mall's entrance until I was headed on my way to the health club at the end of the mall after helping the woman.

I can't remember having ever used that entrance after a run and I'm not sure what reason I had for using it that day rather than the entrance at the other end of the mall by the club which I always used. I can only guess that it was a God moment.

It was sad to see the mall gone as I looked out over the grassy area where it once stood. I'm the sort of person who likes to go back to places that were a part of my life at some point and reminisce. I'd spent a lot of time at this one particular mall and now any chance for reminiscing while walking through it were gone.

I got back out on highway 13 and headed north into St Paul.

I phoned work to see if I could get a couple hours off the front of my shift as Rachel was having a bunch of kids over before the Homecoming dance to take photos. Tammy was glad that I was able to be there. I took some video while she took photos with the camera on a poor setting for the conditions...my fault. Oh well. Such is life in a digital world.

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