A modest proposal: Lake Carlyle

Took in the late show of “Adventureland” the other night at the Lagoon. I liked the soundtrack more than the script, a coming-of-age cliché bookended by the Replacements’ “Bastards Of Young” and “Unsatisfied,” which open and close the movie with so much raw emotion, it reminded me of, well, nothing but that moment: Head tilted back in a near-empty theater, my own coming-of-age songs coming back to me in supersonic glory, 20 years after they weren’t hits.

As I sat waiting for the previews to start, a few rows behind me a trio of young fresh fellows were getting stupid. Smart-asses, to be sure, they were goofing on their just-hatched idea of “overthrowing the ruling class at Lake Harriet” and renaming it “Lake Carlyle.” When I turned around to affirm their time-has-come idea, they rose to the occasion and affected bourgeois accents, clearly looking to tweet, if not eat, the rich.

A few nights before that, my friend Jerry Nelson over at Java Jack’s recounted to me that he was talking to an old-timer in the neighborhood who reports that in the early ’30s after the stock market crashed, “75 percent of the houses on Lake Harriet” were boarded up and vacant. According to the neighborhood historian, and a quick scan of the Minnesota Historical Society archives, some of the homes became boarding houses, others remained vacant and were occupied by neighborhood kids and homeless people in search of tree forts and squat pads.

To avoid that looming possibility in these downturn times, I’m falling in line with my young “Adventureland” brothers and reclaiming the sweet but somnambulant Lake Harriet as my own. I’m going to Lake Carlyle, baby. Wanna come?

Here in Lake Carlyle, the “No Parking 10 p.m.–6 a.m.” signs have been taken down, and all sorts of creatures of the night — insomniacs, night owls, moonlight skinny-dippers, “make out not war” submarine racers — gather to stargaze and wax philosophic about the craic of the day. They occasionally bring adult beverages, and the cops, given the tenor of the times, look the other way and talk about how the fish are biting before heading back out on their rounds.

Here in Lake Carlyle, it’s legal — nay, encouraged — to tase bikers, runners, and power-walkers who come up on you from behind with their sanctimonious “on your left” nags.

Here in Lake Carlyle, the No Doing Anything lifeguards have been replaced by camp counselors and hippie punks who encourage skipping rocks, throwing balls at kids’ heads, playing in the water with your dog, and other general society-collapsing mayhem like swimming outside the ropes.

Here in Lake Carlyle, a public art project was launched to paint the band shell. In short order, its gray old mare sidings were transformed by the likes of Dan and Kit Wilson, Scott Seekins, Michael Carson, Gretchen Seichrist, and dozens of other local artists, art students, and kids. It took one weekend, and now the band shell and the concessions stand is a kaleidoscope of color, looking not unlike some seriously tripped-out Sistine Chapel seed art. (I’m partial to the massive Viva & Jerry visages that abut the quote, “Everyone you meet is your guru.”)   

Here in Lake Carlyle, spring is springing, that summer feeling haunts, and all this is fiction. But a young fresh fellow can dream …

Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.