Where do we even begin?
It's a question every journalist faces in every story. Joe Soucheray answered it the other day in a way that will be familiar to readers of the Pioneer Press: by making himself out to be the lead character in a hardboiled pulp detective novel, the only guy with half his sanity or an ounce of decency in a world gone mad, an everyman who can't help but find himself in trouble with the wrong sort of people.
According to Soucheray's piece, he was just mindin' his own business, out for a walk around his own city, when a "car that had seen better days" with two women in it stopped, and the driver asked him "what town they were in." The columnist gets asked directions a lot, he says, because he looks like someone "who knows his streets."
And how lucky these women were: He does. They were in the city of St. Paul, Minnesota. Joe Soucheray's town.
Soucheray colors his report of this moment by saying the women were "large and heavily tattooed," while wondering if this description is "even apropros of anything." (It is, but only if you're a prick.)
Joe and the driver carry on a discussion about what part of St. Paul she had arrived in. This goes on for a surprisingly long period of time, and is very boring. Here's an excerpt:
"You are in the middle of town," I said. "You couldn't be more in the middle."
If, in this moment, Joe took a long drag from his cigarette, took a jaded-eye look around, and thought that the town had seen better days, this is left to the reader's imagination.
The driver tells Soucheray the two of them had exited the highway at Dale Street. Soucheray knows Dale -- he knows these streets -- and tells them where that is, and how they could get back to the highway, "on the off-chance that my getting them back... would get them out of town." Soucheray has decided St. Paul has no more need of these large women with tattoos.
By now, if you're reading this, you're thinking, Then what happened? Or maybe: This man has a job as a newspaper columnist?
Answers: nothing, and yes.
Yet Joe presses on, processing the event as one of "two gals" who are simply "disconnected from reality," and so "dumb" they didn't even meet "life's most essential need, knowing where you are."
But then Soucheray told the story to "a buddy with law enforcement background in his family." (Note: As far as we know, this man's connection to the law is that his wife's uncle is a dog catcher.) This man and our gritty main character engage in a dialogue, which goes as follows:
“What were you wearing?”
“Red shorts. Red shirt.”
“The walking shoes with the yellow neon stripes?”
“They figured you for a vulnerable adult and were probably sizing you up to take you down.”
Let's review. Joe foists this really dull story upon his friend -- a friend who is not a cop, but who is somehow related to a cop -- and this man immediately asks Soucheray: "Wait... don't you usually dress like someone with a disability?"
This conversation "gave [Soucheray] pause," and if it gave him pause, imagine how his editor felt when they first read it in a draft.
Why, he wonders, didn't they take his money? The dog-catcher's nephew-in-law says: "You talked too much. And you had no fear."
Soucheray observes that these women probably would've pulled a gun on him, too, because they "were not on their high school track teams" -- they're fat, remember when Joe said they were fat? -- and would not "have made it 10 steps in a foot race." (In case you had forgotten the fatness.)
Soucheray signs off with a warning for people to "be alert" and "dress smartly" while walking around the Crocus Hill area.
City Pages would like to offer a warning of our own: If you are ever in St. Paul and need directions, cover your tattoos, and consider losing weight. Drive a better car. Don't be "gals." Do not ask for help from one of those people who appears to have a disability, but actually doesn't, and in fact knows exactly where he is, knows these streets well -- a little too well, if you ask him.
Or better yet, just don't talk to Joe Soucheray. The last thing St. Paul needs is for him to think he's got another reason to write.
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