scribbles tagged ‘USA’

Over dramatic

Monday, May 4th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

Freak hailstormOne minute everything is sunshine and light, the local dogs on the balcony are checking me out

Within the hour there are swirling winds, rain and dramatic hail.  Beating the coating off my hare and giving my guests cause to whip out their iPhones.

Wisely the guests hold on to their beers to prove my camera isn’t set on monochrome…

 


1 wonderful musing »

Low flying sofas

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015 | tags: , ,  |

SpringSpring sunshine brings out the flocks of low flying sofas. Bald Eagles, fine arctic white feathers around their shiny white bald crowns and well groomed sofas freshly woken from winter hibernation

Slightly reminiscent of the UK summer flock to Matlock on lighter, faster, bikes


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More ceilings

Thursday, April 30th, 2015 | tags: , ,  |

ceiling decorationAs the sun comes out and the youngsters start getting frisky in public places, I find myself receding into the shadier places and looking at the ceilings. I like ceilings, they keep me warm, dry, entertained, protected from sunburn – Happy. This is only my second ceiling post, but there will undoubtedly be more, I felt a fetish coming on…

In this old  (1880s?) brick building the bare bricks support and ornate plasterwork(?) ceiling with directional lighting cunningly worked into the symmetrical ceiling pattern.

Black ductingBelow this modern, uncovered, wooden ceiling the ominous black ducting contrasts with the white glass shades. The fans were silent and motionless. Are they decorative of does it really get that hot, even with big-ass ducting to help out?


2 bits of fabulous banter »

Hey! look at ME!

Monday, April 27th, 2015 | tags:  |

Flourescent Orange brideThe bride wore fluorescent orange

The groom was engrossed in his cell phone. Their clothes don’t fit. Her dress is too small, his suit trousers too long and jacket shoulders too wide.

I wore sunglasses. My clothes don’t fit, I’ve been steadily loosing weight for a couple of years now.

April in Minnesota is beautiful, wedding season is in full swing here, it’s a youthful, colourful affair. This wedding party acted out poses from “Charles Angels” very cute. Smiles all around. April may have just become my favourite month

Wedding grouphoto


2 bits of fabulous banter »

Antiques theme park

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

You know those permanent, indoor, antiques markets dotted around English cities and towns? They have them in the USA. The riverside city of Stillwater is full of them. It looks like whole families make day trips to Stillwater to browse through the many antiques markets. I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the archaeology of different decades. The wood burners and red glassware were particularly beautiful.

Red glassware

Red glassware set and stained glass window

Woodburner

Wood burner, fender, vases and oil lamps

Antiques

Stuff on shelves

Antiques

Furniture and paintings

The British version of antiques roadshow is broadcast on the local Public (free) TV


1 wonderful musing »

Honeywell hill

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 | tags: , , , ,  |

Honeywell HillI took Holly’s advice and went in search of the locally named ‘Honeywell hill’. It was easy to find because Minneapolis is relatively flat. People had posted pictures of views from the hill on Flickr, which helped me to find it.

At the bottom of the hill is an old, neglected looking, Honeywell building with a brick tower announcing it’s name. I followed the tower, then drove into the cemetery next door.

Apparently people come here to court. In the quiet company of the dead they watch the city’s profile, cuddle and kiss.


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Gotham city (hall)

Sunday, April 5th, 2015 | tags: , , , ,  |

City HallMy brother renamed Minneapolis to Gotham city, as lightening danced across the black cloud encased sky. Gotham city. The city hall, with mayor, fire department, courts, CSI, District Attorneys and other city administration would have existed when Batman first appeared on the dark streets of Gotham.

 

The sunshine of day leaves a taste of the electric night. Surreal juxtaposition of city hall from last millennium and a skyscraper thrusting upward with no ‘twiddly- bits’ to distract from it’s line of action.

 

City HallCity hall has been beautifully maintained, restored. It’s a living museum that still works for it’s original purpose. The civil rights office is empty today. Letter boxes on the doors half frosted with glass to borrow light onto this big building, giving us a shadowy glimpse of what might be going on behind those doors. The lady Major’s name is painted on the glass of her door ‘Betsy Hodges’. I like her already.

 

The long corridors are lined in white marble and pews provide rest places for those who have to wait. I saw no one waiting, the city staff must be doing something right! City Hall

 

Stained glass lights the marble coated entrance hall. Statues, plaques, column all attest to it’s significance. I’ll definitely be visiting again to find out what happens behind the court doors, where my camera cannot go.

 

Quite right to leave the people in  courts to focus on the serious business of legal things.City Hall foyed


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street walking

Monday, March 30th, 2015 | tags: , , , , ,  |
Minneapolis

Deco sky scraper reflected in modern glass sky scraper

Minneapolis

Forshay tower (circa 1927) seen from nearby street level

but where are the people? Where are the shops?  It looks deserted and there’s nowhere that looks like a place I’d want to stop and shop

Mum was a bit baffled by a drive through the heart of downtown Minneapolis, in December.

Downtown shoppers don’t walk on the streets, sidewalks. It’s too goddam cold! Why have a shop-front onto the street if there are no people to be lured into your store by that view? There are shop fronts. I’ve learned that you have to read the shop fronts in a different way. I’m not sure what I’ve learned, but I’ve learned something because I see more than mum.

Wandering, on foot, downtown in the warmer, above-freezing, temperatures of the Spring revealed some beautiful views of the city. Still no people on the streets.

The walk from my apartment to downtown passes a host of sex bars/shops, I counted 6 on one route…A depressing story that there is demand for this and women find it’s the best way available for them to earn a living. I wonder if mum noticed these places?

This area was clearly a seedy part of town, still is. The seeds of change are showing as restaurants, hairdressers, and other ‘local’ services start to emerge between the sex bars. Anyone for chargrilled Pizza?

Dreamgirls bar on the walk downtown from home

Dreamgirls bar on the walk downtown from home

Minneapolis

Augies topless bar/nightclub seen on the walk downtown from home

Minneapolis

SexWorld, 24hrs, seen on the walk downtown from home

 


3 bits of fabulous banter »

The Holly and the wendy

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 | tags: , , , ,  |

Downtown AlleywayI’ve lived in my downtown apartment for 6 weeks.  Today was the first time I got out to enjoy just wandering around, exploring

5hrs exploring. All of it full of treats peculiar to my tastes.

Holly, the lady on the till in the hat section of the 8 storey Macy’s store on Nicolette, was so helpful. 45 minutes helpful.  Our chatting. My listening. Didn’t stop anyone else buying anything! I’d already bought the hat, so this wasn’t a sales tactic. I suspect she’s chatty by nature and more than a tad bored. Downtown is VERY quiet on Saturday at 11am.  she explained that weekends, when all the office workers have left, are always quiet.  Ideal for “don’t like crowds’ me!

Holly was a high school teacher, she taught biology. She didn’t like the students who went on to be Engineers because they were unimaginative and focussed on ‘interesting’ engineering rather than societal value and function. She told me there’s a place near Industrial Blvd (and a cemetery, that I’ve been meaning to visit) that’s called “Honeywell Hill” because it’s where the company ‘Honeywell’ started out. Evidently they have excellent July 4th celebrations there, on the hill, not in the cemetery.

I think I’ll visit Holly again on another Saturday and find out about her dreams.

 


2 bits of fabulous banter »

1949 Modernism in Minneapolis

Saturday, February 28th, 2015 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Eliel Saarinen Lutheran ChurchCoincidences in the suburbs.

Eliel Saarinen designed one of my favourite buildings, Helsinki central train station. One day I’ll ride the line from Helsinki to St Petersburg with a layover at Viipuri, my fathers birthplace. Eliel Saarinen also designed the Viipuri train station. Train stations are fabulous places, they are the door to adventures, they bring loved one’s home.

Eliel’s last building was a Lutheran church in Longfellow, a suburb of Minneapolis. One of the earliest examples of a modernist building in the USA and listed on their national register of historic places. It stands in very stark contrast to the surrounding classical wooden, suburban, homes. No more of a contrast than the pseudo-gothic, often Germanic, red stone churches in most other districts.

Eliel’s son Eero appears to have worked with Charles Eames, clearly knew both Ray and Charles. Eero also designed the educational annex on the church, added to the building in 1962.
minneapolis residential street
On the Saturday morning that I spontaneously  visited, all the doors to the church were locked. No sign of life inside, no opportunity to see the wonderful light streaming through the cleverly placed windows to fill the space for worship. The door design is simple and beautiful. Ashame that someone felt the need to add the instruction to “Pull” the door handle which already displays all the affordances of being ‘pull-able’ more than ‘push-able’.

Eliel Saarinen Lutheran ChurchThough far more beautiful, the outside design reminded me of the Danish church in Hull that the House family occasionally visited when staying with Hull branch.

I’ll be back, with some locally rounded-up fellow building-lovers on an official, docent-led tour day


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Thermostatic calibration in progress

Thursday, February 19th, 2015 | tags: , , , ,  |

1FAt 1°F the temperature is actually very close to “Goodness this is a bit too cold to be walking anywhere” or “F**k” in the old English vernacular. This is without a wind chill factor, it’ll take a lot more research to really grasp the frostbite inducing winds. Currently I’m avoiding all winds at temperatures below 32°F (freezing). I’m building a list of real descriptions of the new temperatures I’m experiencing. This will help me understand how to dress and talk to the locals.

Goodness this is a bit too cold to be walking anywhere

Preliminary scope suggested as from  5°F down to 0°F This range needs to be confirmed. Behavioural implications include:

  • Hat that covers ears & gloves required
  • Talking about cold is acceptable
  • The mucus in your nose freezes about 30seconds after you go outside
  • A heated steering wheel would definitely be a plus for a car that’s been parked outside in this weather. Darn, it’s not included for my car. Driving gloves essential…   I keep 2 pairs of gloves in the car lest I haven’t anticipated a drop in temperatures. One thick insulated pair for leaving the car and one leather set for covering that period whole the car warms up.
  • For short walks (from car to office, store, specific building) thin soled shoes are passable, but your feet will feel the cold quickly. Thick soles, such as Dr. Martens airware are advisable

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Post it!

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 | tags: , , , ,  |

Minneapolis Post OfficeIn the cold.

Cold is stuff below 10°F

I wandered out from my heated car, 30 paces, to the heated central post office in downtown Minneapolis.  The post office has an amazing exterior. I’ll photograph the exteria in the summer.

The inside was like walking into the deserted 1920’s. There were a few people around, but not many given the size, capacity, of this building. The brass panel in the ceiling that hid recessed lights, the wooden, marble and brass wall panels. This building reeked of celebrating the postal service as a service for everyone. Fabulous.

I love the social responsibility of the locals and their city governance. I feel really at home here. Which is good, because this is my new home.


1 wonderful musing »

Reunion

Monday, February 2nd, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

Marriott hotel firepitAfter a 2 month sojourn in Norfolk, Virginia, container port, my belongings arrived in Minneapolis. Hooray! They avoided the big storms.

Alas, when they arrived I wasn’t in Minneapolis to greet and shepherd them into the loft. Arizona’s nice this time of year.

pre-occupied kitchenWhile my belongings have been elsewhere indulging in meditation and mindfulness, I’ve been preparing the loft for their arrival, adding peanut butter, porridge oats, honey and tea to the empty kitchen cupboards. I’ve not yet found a local Marmite, or twiglets, source.

My dusty things arrive today

Today I spend my first night in the loft

This is as near as I’ll get to what my aunts and cousins call ‘settling down’ which is what they think I should be doing. Apparently, I’ve left it a bit late…


5 bits of fabulous banter »

Greetings

Saturday, January 31st, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

Wendy: How Ewe doin’ ?

Local: I’m living the dream

I think there’s a touch of sarcasm pervading the region. I like it. I must stop giggling and join the conversation….


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Auto correct

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 | tags: , ,  |

To hotel guest: “Nice jumper, urrrr, sweater

To colleague with lots of equipment  “let’s use the lift, um, elevator

To person looking desolate within a crowd in the Comcast service centre “is this a queue, uh, line

here in the US the colour of the pumps for petrol and diesel are reversed, in the UK black is diesel and green is Petrol. I nearly made a nasty mistake because of that” (autocorrect complete fail) “you mean gas and diesel, right. Brits call gas petrol?

I’ve got a British ice-scraper for my windscreen, a short handle, not with the sensible long handle that the local scrapers have” (autocorrect didn’t even know there was a potential problem here but my translation package was soon updated) “windscreen? Windshield

I’m trying my darnedest not to be too cute in my regional language. Mostly, I know the USA word. I know the UK word will be understood after the listener has worked out my accent and often they quickly correct me. If they don’t correct me, or smirk, I don’t even know that I’ve used a quaint word.


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white out, walked in

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

Salt stains on bar floor Another polished concrete floor. This one isn’t in my apartment.

Under the stool in a bar where the floor is probably washed on a daily basis.

This is salt, walked in by customers crossing the car park. Wow! My car is now half white. I wonder what effect this has on the local water table, so much salt spread everywhere…

The carpets at the entranceway at work are thick with the white-out. My Dr. Martens carried the salt across several hundred yards to sit under my desk which looks a mess. My apartment has become a slippers-only place in the winter.

 


2 bits of fabulous banter »

red red wine stain

Sunday, January 25th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

Red wine stain removerWhen shopping for cleaners I tend to look for something that will zap as many things as possible with a minimum environmental effect. Vinegar and baking soda are pretty darn good at cleaning all sorts of things

‘Bed, Bath and Beyond’, takes a very different approach. They make the cleaner very specific to the stain. This approach would fill my cupboards with numerous cleaners for tomatoe sauce, tea, beer, toothpaste, egg etc

Presumably, to be financially viable, a specific stain has to be an extremely common cleaning problem. A stain that has no commonly known alternative cleaning method. I was taught that white wine and salt are best put on red wine spillage

I wonder of the red wine stain problem is particularly prevalent in Minneapolis


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Mixing pleasantries

Friday, January 23rd, 2015 | tags: , ,  |

Wendy: thank you very much

Checkout staff: you’re welcome very much


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Testing

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 | tags: , , , ,  |

Red StagWithout any studying I passed my ‘knowledge’ test for a Minnesota driving licence. I also passed the eye test, which SUPRISED me because I was squinting and the text was fuzzy. Not good. Now I’ve booked a proper eye test with an optician to get some more up to date lenses. No squinting allowed when driving, working or watching films on my surface.

It feels like everything I do is a test, can I get a new phone service, can I find a good optician, can I pick how to invest for my 401k (pension), can I find a place to park downtown, can I follow my GPS (Satnav) directions? There’s a lot more concentration and thinking needed when you move countries (jobs, homes) than when you stay in the same place.

All these tests get the adrenaline flowing, they make me feel alive.

So far I’ve been passing most of the tests… just….

The world looks a bit like this fuzzy photo, even when I’m wearing last year’s prescription glasses. Evidently that’s good enough to drive here.

I’ve booked myself in at an opticians. The next test will lead to a new pair of spectacles… and lenses.


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Ceilings

Saturday, January 17th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

roof pipesI think I’m developing a ceiling fetish. It’s not something that can be cured by rubbing cream onto it.

I find myself looking up and wondering about what the ceiling is made of, whether it hides another ceiling, whether it’s original to the building and many other little, life-peripheral things. Will I recover, will my neck develop a kink? I’ll let you know.

Meanwhile here are a couple that caught my attention this week.

I’ll refrain from a full feature analysis, but the fluffy white spray cover on the concrete surface of the industrial chic bar was really quite a fancifully enticing touch. Swoon.
Red Stag


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8 wooden columns

Thursday, January 15th, 2015 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Architectural salvageCity Salvage

Several people roamed around the spacious yet cluttered store. Heated sufficiently to remove the steam of our breath and feel like outdoors in a temperate climate. For a Minneapolis winter, this is a good temperature for a store. Customers are bundled-up in clothes suitable for minus degrees Fahrenheit. The winter is coming…

All these beautiful wood, doors, columns, sconces…. every piece with a story to tell. This is a magic shop. I left the magic undisturbed, leaving with a raised heart and the treasures left in their place for others to see and enjoy.

I’ll be back,

Next time I may bring a friend….


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Bob the building manager

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

Bob the building managers officeBob the building manager is a hero in my world, and it’s only my first day in the Wendy house loft. Bob’s not his real name. We met in the car park of my apartment building. It started with a friendly hello and within the hour I’d discovered many things that make Bob a hero. Bob:

  • Was a fireman for 20 years, in the military for 20 years, working in schools for 20 years. This is his retirement job. He showed me his office, it’s a treasury. He reminded me of the fisher king.
  • Sorts through the waste in the building dumpsters. He pulls out stuff that can be reused, rather than recycled. He cleans it up, fixed it, then takes it to the Salvation Army centre. He proudly showed me two vacuum cleaners that he’d fixed.
  •  Collects the ‘art’ that is thrown out and uses it to decorate the room where all the garbage falls from the chutes on each floor. He calls it his gallery, and it is, cheerful diverse pictures.
  • Carves wood into toys for children, planters, decorative mail boxes. He has a series of aeroplane hanging in his office.
  • Has dozens of grand children, their faces all smile down from around his tool board in his office. He introduced me to each one, and his siblings and parents.
  • Lives in the building with his wife who has a wicked sense of humour.
  • Told me that someone very, very, very senior, in the company I work for, rents an apartment in the building. Told me how much the rent was. I nearly fell over. Clearly a different floor plan to mine, bigger and with downtown views on the top floor.

Garbage disposal chute endBob's carvingsI could have spent the whole day hanging out with Bob, he was great company. I’m glad I decided to live in an apartment instead of a house.

If  can, I’ll spend time helping Bob


2 bits of fabulous banter »

Keys

Sunday, January 11th, 2015 | tags: , , , ,  |

homeSince November my key fob has been a little empty. I returned neighbours keys. Instead of a house key I’ve been using a hotel swipe card.

Now my key ring has returned to full jingle-too-big-for-pocketness. It holds

  • Apartment mailbox key
  • Car key (fob)
  • Garage,  apartment building key (fob)
  • Apartment door key
  • Security storage locker room key

My apartment is empty because my belongings are in a shipping container that’s been caught in a container jam in Norfolk VA since 23rd December. Meanwhile I can start visiting my empty apartment to fill it with new electrical goods and work out how to get the internet working before moving in.

This may be the last time I see the polished concrete floors before they’re covered with cosy Persian rugs…

The keys tie me to a cosy life with a home even if the building is still bare.


1 wonderful musing »

Boston or Minneapolis?

Friday, January 9th, 2015 | tags: , ,  |

Red StagRed Stag

Next to the “City Salvage” store is a place reminiscent of a large UK pub. When I wandered in at 4pm it was almost empty. By 6pm it was busy with couples and families.

The dapper waiter looked like a younger version of Colonel Saunders with his neatly coiffured moustache and beard.

With time I’ll get habituated to the wooden columns and exposed wooden ceilings in many lf the downtown buildings. For now my jaw slackens and I study the texture of the beams and layout of the columns. Were there once walls here? Was there once a ceiling hiding the roof beams and holding ornate plasterwork?

The lady at the table next to me was considering moving to Minneapolis from Boston. She introduced herself and asked me what it was like moving to Minneapolis from the UK. How friendly. In the UK I’d have found the self introduction somewhat surprising, possibly even rude. I like this open, direct, way that American’s have. I can go out and just meet people and share stories with them. It’s not as lonely as the UK’s polite reservedness.


1 wonderful musing »

Minutes till frostbite

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 | tags: , ,  |

minus 2fSnow is predicted in “Inches per hour”.  I know inches, this means something to me.

Wind-chill is translated to the “number of minutes before frostbite” All I know is that Frostbite is bad. I think it kills the parts of the body that it effects and they drop off. This is like the weather people saying don’t stay outside this long, even if you’re wrapped up well it’s just a really silly idea.

Schools are closed based on wind chill levels. Different schools have different policies.  Looks like a wind chill advisory of -35F is likely to close schools. That is 15 mins to frostbite…

I made a mistake at the weekend. Walking 50ft from the car to a building, I didn’t bother to put my gloves on or button my jacket. It’s not a mistake I’ll make again. My temperate climate habits don’t fit here.

 


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Freedom to self segregate

Monday, January 5th, 2015 | tags: , , , , ,  |

buildingSilver-car parking on the streets of St. Anthony.

We are free to park where-ever we want, as long as we pay at the metre. Sometimes it looks like car owners flock to their like-coloured colleagues.

Wandering into the antique shops in this fabulous building revealed that the local parkers were, like me, pale skinned (Caucasian origin?). I’d parked a couple of blocks away, among the black cars. My dark blue blends in almost seamlessly.

There’s a rogue bicycle lassoed to the parking meter in this photo. I’m so impressed by the cycling commitment of local residents.


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There’s a brake pedal here somewhere

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015 | tags: , , , ,  |

Lexus“I only just bought this car today. I know there’s a brake here somewhere because I set it when I parked the car”

“I can’t believe that you just got here, and bought a Lexus”

“but I can’t find the brake pedal (waves foot around in footwell) that’s not good for your confidence in my driving”

“We’re not driving yet”


3 bits of fabulous banter »

con dense sation

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 | tags: , , , ,  |

MinneapolisIt takes a few minutes, or more, for a street parked car to warm up when it’s so cold outside that the Mississippi is frozen-over.

On days like these I leave 15 minutes earlier for work. I scrape the ice or snow from the front, side and rear windows. Some cars come with heated wing mirrors, steering wheels and seats.  Not the VW Bug I’ve been given as a rental car.

This evening I drove into a mall parking garage. As I drove into the warm, underground parking my windscreen fogged. Out of habit I turned the in-car warm air blowers to the windscreen. The fogging appeared to increase. In a random effort to clear my view I turned on the windscreen wipers. Voilà! The condensation was on the outside of the cold car windows, not the inside.

A local told me that I should open the windows before I park outside at night to let-out all the damp warm air from within. To make sure the insides of the windows don’t ice-up as well as the outside.

Oh. I’m learning….


3 bits of fabulous banter »

inspection

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 | tags: , , , ,  |

The USA home buying process is radically different from the UK process. Here are some of the features that actually change the way people behave:

  • An offer is made with a goodwill payment of 1%. This acts to reduce the likelihood of people making multiple offers…
  • If an offer is accepted by the seller it’s a legally binding contract for the seller, the buyer can still pull out at several check-points but the seller cannot continue to market the property. This acts to prevent gazumping.
  • The buyer employs a professional to conduct an inspection. Professional? This person is not a qualified surveyor, no qualifications required. The fellow who conducted my inspection was like a caring dad who checked every window, every piece of equipment. He lit the oven, made ice, turned on the washing machine, checked all the lights and electric circuits, the boiler etc He gave me advice on how to look after the property and questions I should ask the Home Owners Association (HOA). He recommended that I attend a HOA meeting. He made observations about the other tenants. He was awesome. A buyer can pull out of the agreement after an inspection.
  • Immediately prior to the money exchanging there is a ‘walk through’ of the property in the estate that it will be handed over. The money is not exchanged if the purchaser is unhappy with the walk through. My ‘Inspector’ explained that a resident may have a big leaving party that leaves broken windows and toilets etc. The final walk through makes sure that they pay for any damage between agreement and departure. Nice.

Meanwhile my inspection raised lots of minor functional questions, like

  • How does the intercom work – there’s no in apartment equipment – is there a cell phone app for that?
  • Are those sockets for internet connections or phones?
  • Can I put more powerful bulbs in that light fitting?

It feels good to shift to asking trivial functional questions, clearly the big stuff is working well. The apartment is 4 miles from work and has ample bike storage in the basement. I could get fit in the summer. The route to work is through prettily housed suburbs.

As the inspector checked the apartment I pondered the view, watching the tail’ lights of city traffic. I felt at home. It felt right despite being so very different from my little hidden garden cottage in Reading. We all change as does the world around us. Time for a high rise garment with  scary balcony…..


3 bits of fabulous banter »

jingle jingle

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 | tags: , ,  |

In the dark, driving slowly,  I search for the car park entrance to the supermarket.

There is a roadside Christmas tree sales spot. Someone has camped on the abundant sidewalk and placed their neatly cut trees in the snow. Music is playing, they have bright lights pointing at the trees. It reminds me of TV programmes, films, I’ve seen. The Christmas trees shopping experience in below zero USA climates is just like that in the films.

A portly black man, reminiscent of father Christmas, dressed in ‘Salvation Army’ red rings a handbell at the store entrance. I pull out some dollars and push them into his collection jar. His voice is cheerful, hearty,  as he talks of his day job and, this, night time volunteer work. I thank him and listen. I admire his dedication. It’s below zero and he’s collecting money to help those people who’ve been excluded by society. He likes my hat and warns me against the problems of drink.

How did he know?


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