Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Minneapolis Saga

Once in a while Rebecca gets an urge, sometimes a "calling," to go thrifting. It's almost a spiritual quest for her and she's scored some amazing finds in the past. I'm not one to question that level of being tuned to the ebb and flow of the universe. She can also make parking spots appear with greater than 50% accuracy, so, yeah. I don't question it.

Last night she took me to Arc's Value Village Thrift Store, which I'd never been to before. Actually, she asked if I wanted to go thrifting with her, a question which is usually met with indifference or resignation, but last night I felt pretty strongly that I wanted to go thrifting too. I would look for some sweaters, sure, this was the season for it.

We headed south, negotiating the various eruptions of road construction, and found the store in an interesting landscape of little shops and chain outlets. The interior was much nicer than other thrift stores I've seen--they must have some on-task management or a staff who likes their jobs. Rebecca went to shop for clothing and pointed me to the men's department.

I did find a couple racks of sweaters, and I did land a couple nice garments. I noted with some curiosity that there were a great many sweaters and sweater vests there all sized at extra large or XXL. Maybe as many as half of these were that size. I didn't know if an obese man had lost some weight and donated his wardrobe, or if these were garments that didn't manage to get sold in a regular store and ended up here.

I wandered over to the books section and found a wonderful pile of old comic books. Not ancient, probably not valuable to anyone but a serious collector, but some real treasures. I took a Conan the Barbarian color comic book (1984) that was just awful! Larry Yakata was the writer and churned out such memorable passages as this:

Conan! Conan! Surely the gods have blessed this most beautiful and wondrous of days!
Our mutual toil and efforts have bourne the sweetest of fruit!
We rogues,
working in perfect unison! Ay! Ay!

This, from an orphaned child tagging along with Conan. There's also an ad for the Atari 5200 on the back of the comic. I'll go into greater dissection of this thing later.

But the important event of the shopping evening came when we were shopping for portrait frames. We've just painted our bedroom a pale, dusty purple, and I have it in my head that a neat decoration would be to paint a bunch of variously crafted picture frames a slightly darker color and hang them, without pictures, in a group on a wall. I think it would look neat. I found a large poster with a long written piece entitled "What Is A Man?" Rebecca wondered what it was and I guessed from appearances: it was hand-written calligraphy, probably someone's pet project, and it looked as though the scribe was developing a personal font. At that, a blonde man in a denim jacket, standing behind Rebecca, suddenly became very interested and kept peeking at the poster as I described it to her.

But this is the important part. I spotted a beautiful thick wooden frame and pulled it out, and inside was a large certificate of religious nature. Entitled Daabs-Attest (quick Internet search suggests this is a Certificate of Baptism), it is for Gilbert Nikolai, dated 1888 and located in Minneapolis. The certificate is a form "Published by the Publication Soc. of the Norw. Dan. Luth Conference, Minneapolis, Minn." I held it in my hands and couldn't put it down. This was a valuable historical document, in my unschooled estimation, and it was not right that it should languish in a thrift store. It should be given to some local organization, either an historical records office, a Norwegian/Danish organization, or at the very least I could attempt to trace the Lutheran church which officiated the ceremony.

We brought the certificate home and I pried back the nails that held the thin wooden plank in place behind the certificate. When it lifted away a section of newspaper was revealed, a page cut out from the Minneapolis Times. I can't find a year on this section of paper because the edges were trimmed and the center of the page was removed, but it certainly is old. I'll research some online archives and see if I can place it at a specific date. The section is too large for me to fit entirely on my flatbed scanner, so I've scanned the upper and lower halves, front and back, and will reassemble them in Photoshop (while preserving the original high-resolution scan separately). I'm also scanning the Certificate of Baptism and will give it the same treatment.

I'm not going to suggest the document "called" to me. I'm neither Norwegian nor Danish, and I know nothing about the preservation of documents over a century old. But when I held this frame and certificate in my hands, I did feel a sense of responsibility, like it was up to me to right a wrong. I absolutely could not return this thing to the shelf; I absolutely had to bring it back and find a proper home for it. I don't know what that's about, but I felt very strongly about it.

Maybe I can turn my search into an article for publication. That's how I look at everything now: opportunities for articles. This is one of the benefits of going out more and seeing things, taking fresh notice of the city I've moved through for twelve years, questioning the viability of everything as an article to be written up.

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