Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Through The Open Window She Hands Charlie A Sandwich

One of the major purposes of dancing Morris is to add a bit of festivity and excitement to the community. We bring music and dance and color and ritual to public places and gatherings. By rights we should receive some cadged money in return, so that we can buy beer with it. It's good luck to give money to a Morris dancer, that's what we're trying to convince you. But the busking and begging tradition is a culturally tricky one (not to mention illegal in public parks), and even in England many teams now beg for a charity rather than for beer money -- it's more socially acceptable that way.

All that aside, one good thing for the dancers themselves is that by getting out in the community we see more of the community. Over the years I have danced in an assortment of local venues I would not otherwise have visited or even known -- the Lake Harriet Rose Garden, for example, which is right in South Minneapolis but which I never even heard of until I danced there my first year on a team. It's the second oldest public rose garden in the United States! Why didn't I know about it?

What I can't believe I didn't know about until I started dancing Morris is the Como-Harriet Streetcar Line and Trolley, which departs from a station that is mere feet from the Lake Harriet bandshell where I've been performing since I first arrived in the Twin Cities. In part I didn't know about this because for many years the line and station were closed for renovations. But really, the streetcar stop is just the other side of the trees from the bandshell. Why didn't I even look?

The Como-Harriet Streetcar line is a last bit of trolley track left over from what was once a major streetcar line that went all the way from downtown St. Paul to Lake Minnetonka, 14 miles west of Minneapolis. The streetcar shut down in 1954. A small section, running along the side of Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun, is still maintained by local volunteer enthusiasts, and a restored trolley runs along a half-mile of track on summer evenings and weekends. It is an absolute delight to ride this car.

Each year my Morris team dances at the Lake Harriet bandshell before the Minnesota Freedom Band's annual concert, and then we go off and dance at the trolley station before riding the trolley. Then we go out for barbecue at a nearby restaurant, all dressed in white, just to prove how stupid we are.

Last night was another one of the stunningly beautiful long evenings we've been having this season. Sitting on the streetcar, the view looking out over the lakes was just gorgeous. It was mostly us on the ride. We sang "Charlie on the MTA", which is now a tradition, plus the "To Stop the Train" round which was practically spontaneous and as joyful of a roundsing as could be imagined.

It's really nice just to be away from everything in the world, sitting with your Morris team in your whites and your bells, riding the hundred year old streetcar alongside the beautiful lakes of Minneapolis, singing out "Did he ever return? No, he never returned!"
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