Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Blue Tarp House (Photo 3)

Photo by John Hoff

The most visible portion of the tarp is relatively secure, but the house is in a high-profile location and the roof is a highly-visible eyesore.

One can't help but be reminded of the opening paragraphs of Stephen Crane's story, "The Blue Hotel."
THE Palace Hotel at Fort Romper was painted a light blue, a shade that is on the legs of a kind of heron, causing the bird to declare its position against any background. The Palace Hotel, then, was always screaming and howling in a way that made the dazzling winter landscape of Nebraska seem only a gray swampish hush. It stood alone on the prairie, and when the snow was falling the town two hundred yards away was not visible.

But when the traveler alighted at the railway station he was obliged to pass the Palace Hotel before he could come upon the company of low clap-board houses which composed Fort Romper, and it was not to be thought that any traveler could pass the Palace Hotel without looking at it.

Pat Scully, the proprietor, had proved himself a master of strategy when he chose his paints. It is true that on clear days, when the great trans-continental expresses, long lines of swaying Pullmans, swept through Fort Romper, passengers were overcome at the sight, and the cult that knows the brown-reds and the subdivisions of the dark greens of the East expressed shame, pity, horror, in a laugh. But to the citizens of this prairie town, and to the people who would naturally stop there, Pat Scully had performed a feat.

With this opulence and splendor, these creeds, classes, egotisms, that streamed through Romper on the rails day after day, they had no color in common.

As if the displayed delights of such a blue hotel were not sufficiently enticing, it was Scully's habit to go every morning and evening to meet the leisurely trains that stopped at Romper and work his seductions upon any man that he might see wavering, gripsack in hand.


(Opening paragraphs of this master work of American literature shortened for blog purposes)

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The Blue Tarp House (Photo 2)

Photo by John Hoff

This is the part of the tarp where the wind has really had its way, and tattered remnants continually flap in the breeze.

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"The Blue Tarp House" (Photo 1)

Photo by John Hoff

The house at the corner of Lyndale Ave. N. and 30st Ave. N--on the west side of Lyndale, kind of across from Bangkok Market--is simply called the "Blue Tarp House" by folks in the neighborhood.

Long ago, somebody used blue tarps to cover a bad roof, but the tarps have become severely weathered, and portions of them flap like the eerie, tattered sails of a ghost ship. While calling 311 about the open, unsecured doors and windows at 2955 Lyndale Ave. N., a house or two over, I snapped a few pictures for posterity.

Well, not that posterity will need the pictures any time soon. There's no indication the Blue Tarp House will be changing in the near future.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

BLOGGING BY SPECIAL REQUEST: ("My neighbor found another bullet hole in her house today")

Photo By A Good Citizen

I'm happy to "blog by request" and use the power of steady, pointed blogging to raise the profile of neighborhood issues...the interesting ones, anyway. (I am not a bulletin board)

One of those requests came today from a citizen who will remain anonymous, but he/she puts a lot of time and effort into the Hawthorne Area Community Council...

Here is his/her report on 2200 6th Street North, verbatim:

2200 6th Street North

This is another one of our "properties from hell" and has been for the past two years. According to City Property Records, this one was purchased by Bijan Bader in 12/05. He lists that address as his address, although he does not live there nor has he ever lived there. Interesting? What's up with that?

When we first started having problems here, I did some research and discovered he didn't have a rental license. I reported that in 10/06. Just to verify I had my dates right, I checked with 311 today. Yes, they had my complaint of no rental license on record. Guess what? There still isn't a rental license. This owner has gone without a rental license since 12/05 and still continues to rent the property. All this time, it has been one drug dealing tenant after another. The police scooped up a whole mess of them last night from the front porch and yard.

So, is this whole rental licensing thing just a joke? Why haven't these folks been kicked out of here if the owner can't legally rent it? Back in June, I found another property: 2127 North 6th with no rental license. This is another one of our gang-banging pieces of crap and has been for the past year. Let's see how that one plays out with the city. I bet you anything the owner gets her license if she fills out the form and pays the $61 fee.

(In an earlier communication, the same good citizen told me some of the following)

We're kind of running out of options here on 22nd and 6th. Up until early this summer, we thought we were getting a handle on the dealing around here. The police response has been fantastic, so we have absolutely no complaints with them. They're doing everything they can do to the best of our knowledge.

There are numerous addresses involved in this crap--some rental, 3 owner-occupied, but the one that has been escalating for the past three years is 2207 6th Street N.

This is an owner-occupied property; grandma taking care of a whole mess of her kids and their kids and now all the gang-banging friends and their associates. It started out 3 years ago with a couple of the teenage boys selling out of the front yard. Now it appears to be the main meeting ground for all the other gang members who work the neighborhood.

Over the weekend, my 70 plus year old neighbor had another bullet come through her house; the result of these people and their associates. She heard the shot fired, called it in and discovered the bullet hole and bullet in her house the next day. Needless to say, she's beside herself.

Her granddaughter found the bullet and is scared to death. This is the second time this has happened to her. There was also a drive-by shooting at 2207 some time in June and a few others I can't recall the details of right now.

We were calling 911 when we see something we can report. Here's the big problem we're encountering: the dealers are getting smarter. Long gone are the days when drug deals took place from the front door of a property. These people sell in the street in front of the house, they sell on the street corner, they sell at a boarded property next door.

Sure, the cops arrest when they can, but it's always small amounts. It doesn't stop anything. more importantly, none of these arrests or whatever count as a strike against a particular property, in this case 2207 6th Street North.

There's a Nuisance Property Ordinance used to shut down both rental and even owner-occupied properties, but all the documented illegal activities have to take place on the property. If the dealers can't be arrested on the property you're (expletive) as far as being able to use this ordinance.

I simply don't know what other tools we can use to make this crime go away. It's been at least three years we've been dealing with this one. We're angry, frustrated and tired. We want grandma and her family gone. That's the only solution. They will never change.

Keep in mind, I didn't even mention another owner-occupied property we've been dealing with for over 10 years. Same situation.

(In a follow-up message, he/she citizen reported the following)

My neighbor found another bullet hole in her house today. Most likely one she missed from the incident over the weekend, but there was more gunfire last night.

(Readers, if you have stories like this then email me the details and, preferably, a picture. I have a picture with all of my posts, but I prefer to use actual images and not something generic from a photo sharing website)

Monday, July 28, 2008

422 33rd Ave. N. (This House Is A Crispy Critter, Photo 4)

Photo by John Hoff

This photo shows the interesting contrast between the burned and relatively unburned portions of the exterior. What happened to the vinyl siding on the burned part? Well, I assume it's now in the air we all breathe.

Note the dedicated boarding work. But those blank boards just cry out for some beautification. Maybe some butterflies, sandy beaches...something warm and summery, I think, to make the very best use of the mood created by the charred boards!

No, don't even think I'm being sarcastic. If I'm being sarcastic, I will let you know, since my sarcasm font is broken and I always give manual notification. I am, if anything, an optimist and an artist.

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422 33rd Ave. N. (This House Is A Crispy Critter, Photo 3)

Photo by John Hoff

Parts of the house are so burned, it appears to be built out of charcoal. Each time it rains, black charcoal-laden run-off will end up in the storm drain and the house will weaken further.

All the same, I'm sure Khameron Lake would be quite willing to live inside with his prostitute, Kathy.

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422 33rd Ave. N. (This House Is A Crispy Critter, Photo 2)

Photo by John Hoff

Wow, somebody actually went inside to nail those boards up over the windows. I'll bet they were worried every moment about falling through the floor. The guys who did this sure didn't get paid enough.

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422 33rd Ave. N. (This House Is A Crispy Critter, Photo 1)

Photo by John Hoff

I stumbled upon this house at 422 33rd Ave. N. when I was going around the block to take a picture of a hooker on Lowry Avenue North. I've seen a lot of burned out houses on the North Side which need to be demolished, but for some reason--maybe because it's so close to my block--I found this one interesting.

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Mortgage Crisis Means "Golden Age Of Dumpster Diving"

Photo by Anthony Souffle, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, fair comment and criticism

I was blogging on my other blog,, about a towing scandal in St. Louis, and while perusing the St. Louis Post-Dispatch I came across this (excellent) picture, above, attached to a great story about the mortgage crisis. The guy in the picture is cleaning out possessions in a foreclosed house.

And, thinking back to what I saw at 3101 6th Street North and 3119 4th Street North, it occurred to me...the mortgage crisis has created a new, golden age of dumpster diving!

1.) Directly and indirectly because of the mortgage crisis, people are broke and needing to save money. (Solution: go dumpster diving!)

2.) Because of the mortgage crisis, numerous households are getting uprooted, producing a drastic influx of possessions to hit the curb. (Solution: go dumpster diving!)

No doubt about it. We are living in the best of all possible times. We need to enjoy this. We need to hang on to these moments.

To buy my two books on the subject of dumpster diving, check out this link right here and search under my pen name, "John Hoffman." But like I always say: Be frugal. Get your books from a library.

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City Buys Roach Motel (3119 4th Street North)

Photo by John Hoff

Word has reached me the City of Minneapolis now owns 3119 4th Street North, which is slated for demolition. (The trash in this picture was removed a few days ago)

I've been trying to publicize the issue of the vermin infestation, urging a quicker demolition before 3119 4th Street fills the neighborhood with rats and roaches.

Unknown what the vermin situation is at 3101 6th Street N., the OTHER "Apartment Complex of Anarchy," but given the fact conditions at that building were MUCH WORSE for a prolonged period of time, one suspects the rats have themselves a palace and are contemplating a bold expansion of their empire into the surrounding neighborhood...

On another note: the Spring 2008 Hawthorne newsletter actually used the term "Apartment Complexes of Anarchy," which originated on this blog. It was pretty cool to see that.

Punker Punches Debutante In Dinkytown, Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood (Photo Two)

Photo by John Hoff

Here is a second photo of the group. I'm posting it because...well, maybe somehow their parents might get word of their whereabouts. If I run into them again, I might try to get more information. I've also sent an email to the police department requesting the police report about the incident, so I can find out their names.

They are silly children who imagine themselves wise and worldly. I worry about them.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Punker Punches Debutante in Dinkytown, Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood (Photo One)

Photo by John Hoff

Yes, my self-appointed journalistic blog beat does cover the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood from time to time, especially when it's something this colorful and I actually have a photo of the participants...

Last night I had...well, OK, a date. A woman I met, um, on the internet(s). We met at the Kitty Kat Club in Dinkytown, then when the club grew noisy we went to a bunch of other noisy clubs, briefly, until we ended up at The Steak Knife. She's a serious vegetarian, but she managed to find some kind of veggie pita on the menu.

She was fascinated by the Dinkytown night life, the endless array of students carrying paper plates with single slices of pizza from Mesa Pizza. I told her how, on any weekend, you could sit and watch altercations, random puking, college women who don't have the grown-up good sense to wear their "big girl shoes" and instead walk barefoot on the dark sidewalks, just a visual buffet of violent, chaotic fun. I told her about the column I wrote called "Fear and loathing at zero miles an hour" and I should have told her about that crazy night when I tried to help some guy with (as it turned out later) a stab wound in his neck.

Sitting on a bench, we saw the things I had predicted: 1.) Women unable to walk in "big girl shoes," 2.) Students so drunk they were falling over, though when the women fell over they didn't go unassisted for very long. 3.) Puking.

There wasn't really a good altercation, and we'd decided to call it a night and walk together to her vehicle, when the chaotic madness which is Dinkytown on the weekend broke loose all at once.

There were some street youth, homeless, punk rocker type kids sitting in front of the post office, one of them playing a guitar for spare change. Suddenly there was some kind of physical altercation between two males, one of them a big punk rocker and the other seemingly some random college guy. There was a lot of sissified shoving and words shouted. At one point, as weird as this seems, I thought I heard the punk rock guy say, "I'll give you $20 bucks to leave me and my friends alone" while the shoves went back and forth.

I had my finger poised over the "9" on my cell phone, but I didn't call the cops quite yet because sissies shoving at each other's shoulders and spatting like angry kittens doesn't really merit a police response, even if it would technically count as assault. So many times I've seen the situation abruptly de-escalate as friends intervene and pull the angry participants apart, and I hate telling a 911 operator, "Never mind."

At that very moment--though we didn't know it at the time--a man lay shot and dying in the parking lot of the Fourth Street Bar on the North Side, a couple blocks from where I'd watched the "human chess tournament" the day before. In fact, two people were murdered the same day in separate incidents. But the drunk college kids in Dinkytown were, as usual, sucking up more than their fair share of police resources. (See my opinion column, "Send the 'party patrol' to North Minneapolis.")

The sissy slapping contest continued for a bit--enough time for my date to speculate the college student had tried to make change out of the open guitar case, and that had started the argument--I could hear it had something to do with leaving stuff alone, not touching other people's stuff, something along those lines.

All of a sudden, two women were wrestling, a dog was barking madly, and the punk rock guy who had been sissy-slapping with the college guy rushed into the middle of the melee between the two women. I saw actual punches being thrown and now I was dialing 911, but one and then two police cars pulled up that very moment and I didn't need to complete the call.

A small punk rock girl with a pink Mohawk haircut was arrested and put in the back of a squad car. I saw the police making the other punk rockers disperse, repeatedly, and it looked like an arrest or another wrestling match would start. The whole time, yards away, college students waited in line for pizza, not breaking from the line and losing their place.

A tall, leggy, long-haired brunette girl in a black cocktail dress was receiving medical attention from one of the officers. My date saw blood pouring out of the young woman's nose and speculated her nose was broken. I couldn't see blood from where I was watching, not in such bad light, but her face had something dark on it and the officer did appear to be paying attention to her nose.

"She looks like a debutante," I told my date. "That punk rock girl in the pink Mohawk must have hit her."

I couldn't resist pointing out THIS was what we had been waiting to see, and how fortunate it happened before we left so we didn't miss it.

I wanted to find out the story, somehow, but my date didn't want to get any closer to the action. It was already worrisome to walk to the parking lot with the angry, frustrated punk rockers wandering around. They did indeed wander right past while we stood at her car and talked.

After she left, I walked back toward The Library bar and grill, and I overheard some discussion among some college students about why the altercation had started. I heard, "One of their dogs got away, and Jesse grabbed the leash."

I heard another say, "Can you believe it? All this for a stupid dog."

The next day, after I parked my vehicle, I saw some of the punk rockers begging for change at the I-35 offramp, the one right before the bridge construction. The punk rocker with the pink Mohawk was there and I though, "Wow, I can't believe they let her out of jail so easily."

I had two very special beers in my vehicle, left over from cleaning my house before the sale. I'd found these beers inside 415 31st Avenue North, the house involved in the complex lawsuit with Citimortgage, and I'd removed the beers (two big cans of Steel Reserve) to keep them from falling into the hands of minors.

For myself, I can't stand beer. The smell alone makes me want to gag. But I hate to see things go to waste. With those two unopened beers--handed to the male, who looked to be easily over the age of 21--and a fistful of change, I managed to get the group to tell me the story.

Pink Mohawk claimed some crazy college students were saying, "Homeless people shouldn't have dogs. You're not taking care of your dogs." They were threatening to call the police and get Animal Control to take the dogs. A college girl grabbed the dog's leash and tried to make off with the dog and that's when the fight broke out, first among the two women--Pink Mohawk and the debutante-looking brunette--then one of the guys jumped into the fray.

The male claimed he had been arrested and put in a squad car for punching the college girl, but he had not punched her--he did not hit women, he said--rather it was his friend who looked a lot like him.

Currently, they were trying to leave town for Seattle, but there was talk of returning for the protests at RNC 2008 in late August, early September. Pink Mohawk wanted to build a raft and float down the Mississippi all the way to New Orleans. I suggested she should purchase a boat, instead, something proven to be water-worthy, but she was enamored with the idea of building a raft and floating down the river.

I urged them to call their parents and let them know their whereabouts. (I can't help it, I was deeply influenced by reading "Into The Wild" and watching the movie) I also added, lamely but for the record, "Remember, violence is not the answer."

I find myself not sure who or what to believe. Based on the two accounts I heard and what I observed, this is what I think happened. Some college students did indeed level some random criticisms about the punk rockers and their treatment of their animals. In my observation, college students are infamous for a particular type of immature act: unprovoked verbal criticisms leveled at random strangers, especially while walking around drunk.

They are young, naive and tender. Life has not yet taught them how a harsh word casually tossed around may result in a sudden blast of violent rage. They will learn. If they live.

I think that's what the initial pushing and verbal back-and-forth was about. I also don't think the young man came up with the notion of confronting the punk rockers all on his own. I think the brunette female was the one overwhelmingly concerned with the dogs, and the male was more concerned with...well, maybe he is a cat lover.

I think the young man may have actually offered money for the dogs, or suggested simply handing over the dogs, all because he wanted to impress the girl. One of the dogs got loose during the pushing and shoving and the college girl--obviously quite an animal lover--was concerned the animal would run into the street and get hit by a car, so she instinctively grabbed the trailing leash.

This caused two things to happen: 1.) The dog was probably yanked back hard on its leash, if it was running full-tilt. 2.) The college girl was physically handling and taking possession of the dog, which was the whole point of the dispute.

So the punk rock girl grabbed for the leash, as well. And the college girl who cared so much about the welfare of this animal didn't want to let go. She wanted to talk, to negotiate, to reason. The two began to have a physical altercation and, well, the college girl is about twice as big as the punk rock girl.

So the punk rock guy went over there and just DECKED THE DEBUTANTE, WHAM. The dispute was turning into a violent ball of people and one frantically yapping dog when the police rolled up.

Then again...I'm not sure. I want to label this as speculation.

For the record, the girl with the pink Mohawk denied the college girl suffered a broken nose, but said proudly, "She was covered in blood."

In the photo above, note they not only have two dogs--both pit bulls--but the male has a pet black-and-white rat in his shirt collar. It is a male. Its pink testes were amazingly prominent. The dog involved in the altercation is not one of the dogs pictured here. There were several other members of the group, and they were elsewhere when this photo was taken.

I think these punk rockers are unwise to remain around the campus. Punching a hot college girl in the face is bound to stir up all kinds of young men who will be looking for an opportunity to be knights in shining armor.

Yes, college kids have a kind of dangerously naive immaturity, but the punk rockers--despite literally living on the street--have their own naive blind spots. Last night was the blind punching the blind.

Sex Offender Update: Eviction Proceedings August 13

Photo by John Hoff

Word from Jeff Skrenes is that eviction proceedings will take place on August 13 against Junaid Maalik, the squatter/sex offender still living at the foreclosed and beyond-redemption house at 3024 6th Street North, currently owned by US Bank & Trust.

Jeff didn't have more details. We both agreed it certainly wasn't fast enough.

Above, you can see Junaid Maalik literally looking over his shoulder. That feeling he gets of somebody watching him is from somebody watching him.

The telephoto function on my digital camera isn't very sophisticated, but it gets the job done. And no, I'm not sure who the woman is. I suspect it is Junaid's supervising officer or a former co-worker from the job where I got his (expletive) fired, one or the other.

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Human Chess Tournament, Photo Nine (Back To the Box)

Photo by John Hoff

This is how chess games end, with the pieces all jumbled together but apparently getting along. The young boy in the yellow shirt was probably the deadliest player on the board.

Yes, a good time was had by all!

Later that night, a few blocks away, some guy died in a shooting at the Fourth Street Bar.

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Human Chess Tournament, Photo Eight (Waiting For Their Doom)

Photo by John Hoff

Like sheep at a slaughterhouse, the chess people passively await their gruesome fates.

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Human Chess Tournament, Photo Seven (Out For Blood)

Photo by John Hoff

There wasn't nearly enough killing to keep some of the players satisfied. Enough with strategic maneuvering. Some of the pieces wanted BLOOD!

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Human Chess Tournament, Photo Six (Bryan Does Not "Spare The Rod" On the Chess People)

Photo by John Hoff

Bryan Thao Worra cut a more dramatic figure than any of the human chess pieces, directing the players where to move with his golden wand, a traditional Lao sash tied around his waist. When Bryan lost the first game to HACC Chair Peter Teachout, Bryan announced, "My job is safe."

I think the golden wand was a curtain rod. I'm not sure.

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Human Chess Tournament, Photo Five (The Kids Want To Keep The Swords)

Photo by John Hoff

After the human chess tournament was over, some of the kids wanted to know if they could keep the swords.

OK, well, maybe it wasn't just the kids.

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Human Chess Tournament, Photo Four (The Undead Rook Gives Advice)

Photo by John Hoff

After dying within the first couple moves, (no fault of his own, obviously) Jeff Skrenes got involved giving advice on the sidelines.

At one point I talked to Jeff about the situation with Junaid Maalik, the sex offender squatting at 3024 6th Street North. I kept smirking as Jeff updated me on the situation, and finally I had to say, "I'm sorry, it would be so much easier to take what you're saying seriously if you weren't dressed like part of the Burger King's entourage."

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Human Chess Tournament, Photo Three (Queen For Half An Hour)

Photo by John Hoff

At one point, one of the participants had to leave and we needed a new queen. This woman (I'm not sure who she is) was asked if she wanted to be "queen for a day...well, OK, half an hour."

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Human Chess Tournament Photo Two (No Pawns, Only Players)

Photo by John Hoff

Here is half the chess board for yesterday's "human chess tournament." There was a respectable number of participants, but not enough to fill out the whole chessboard, so we played the games with no pawns.

The chess board was symbolic of the neighborhood association itself. There are no minor players. Everybody who cares to get involved is capable of having a serious impact.

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Human Chess Tournament, Photo One (Police Presence On The Block)

Photo by John Hoff

Yesterday, HACC Chairman Peter Teachout convinced me to come over because he needed help with the lifting of a large grill for the Art FLOW "human chess tournament" event held at 2nd Street N. and W. Broadway, across from the old Johnny A's bar...

I hadn't planned on attending the event, though cheery Connie Nompelis tried to convince me by email. I said a bunch of stick-in-the-mud stuff about how crack heads would be frolicking around in the neighborhood while people looked at art, and how "if you've seen one rusty saw blade painted with a rustic rural scene, you've seen them all."

But Peter told me he needed help lifting the over-sized grill, and so I rolled over, warning Peter I'd have to leave early because I had a blind date lined up through an internet dating site, and we were meeting at the Kitty Cat Club at 6 p.m. (The name of the establishment sounds so much naughtier than the bar, grill and music venue actually is)

While I was parked, waiting for Peter to emerge from his house so we could fetch the grill, the young woman in the picture got behind my van and started adjusting her skirt to show the maximum amount of leg.

"Oh, good grief, another prostitute," I thought.

I got my phone out, ready to dial 911 as she began strolling up 6th Street North. But I didn't need to call because a police car suddenly pulled up. The officer detained the woman was well as a young guy who appeared to be her pimp. The officer asked her business in the neighborhood, and she didn't really have a convincing or definite answer. Somebody had dropped her off and would pick her up.

Right as I was getting ready to leave and follow Peter, I snapped this picture, above. The young man was not happy.

"Hey, he took my picture!" he objected.

In the last few days I've been talking to Peter about being more aggressive with a camera and documenting the faces of the individuals lurking around to do bad things on the block, slapping that stuff up all over the internet.

Don't want your picture on this blog with a pithy, accusatory story attached? Stay the (expletive) away from my block with your prostitution and drug dealing.

Later, Peter told me he recognized the girl "wearing half a skirt." She had been a major prostitution player on the block a couple years ago, but hadn't been around for a while. Unfortunately, my camera wasn't set to "telephoto," so this picture doesn't show as much detail as it could...but, then again, maybe that's a good thing.

Crap Dumped Near 3112 6th Street North

Photo by John Hoff

We got rid of one "landfill starter kit" at 3119 4th Street North, but right away another garbage dump popped up a short distance away. Another thing to call 311 about on Monday. I wish I could catch the people who are dumping crap on the weedy, vacant lots around my block.

A few days ago, while I was cleaning of 3016 6th Street N. just before the pre-sale inspection, a young guy walked by and threw a snack wrapper on the ground. I pointed out he could put his trash in the garbage container, conveniently located just a few feet away.

"I don't see no trash can," he said, defiant.

Ooooooh, such a gangster. Doesn't see no stinkin' trash can. Doesn't properly dispose of his litter. I'm shaking all over. (Sarcasm font broken, I'll have to point it out manually) What's next, refusing to floss?

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"Roach Motel" at 3119 4th Street North

Photo by John Hoff

First the good news: a crew of some kind cleaned up the "landfill starter kit" behind 3119 4th Street North...

Now the bad news: according to the next door neighbor "Patty Cake," the crew found both live and dead rats as well as cockroaches in the garbage piles. The refuse was there for a while in the open, weedy ground instead of a nice dumpster container, (the purpose of which is to keep vermin OUT until dedicated dumpster divers can get the loot) so I can understand the live roaches and rats getting into the pile.

But it is the the DEAD rats which tell the tale: the building must be infested with vermin.

"Patty Cake" will be talking to the usual city officials about this. There was a rumor of demolition in 37 days (yes, an odd number) but the new rumor is things will take much longer than that. Well, if it's full of vermin...maybe we can fast track it. I mean, cheaper to knock the building down a little sooner--since it's going to be knocked down anyway--then to fumigate a building which is going to be demolished, right?

Haul the rats and roaches away to the landfill with the rubble, I say. They will like it there. Everybody wins.

I told Patty Cake that I'd make blogging about this matter a priority, to get the word out about the infestation. I can't help but wonder what is up inside of 3101 6th Street, the OTHER "Apartment Complex of Anarchy." Things weren't much better in that building, and in some ways worse because pipes were ripped out. It could be full of vermin, as well.

I went behind 3119 4th Street and took this picture. The crew did a really good job cleaning. I didn't see much left behind except a plastic container of nutmeg and part of a CD. It's weird there would be a container of nutmeg, because when I visited the garbage pile with Jake and Gabe and their video camera, I also found a full container of nutmeg, which I poured out so it would go back to the earth.

So it was strange to find--of all the crazy things--another container of nutmeg. But I decided as far as omens go, it was positive.

Friday, July 25, 2008

"Anything You Want, Five Bucks"

Photo by John Hoff

A couple weeks ago, the stuff which was inside of 3101 6th Street North ("The Apartment Complex of Anarchy") appeared in the parking lot next to the building. The neighbor I call "Patty Cake" was walking by, and a guy next to the stuff said, "Anything you want, five bucks."

"So," I said to Patty, "I guess in a sense nothing at all has changed at that address. You can still get anything you want for five bucks."

A few days later, I called police about a trespasser at the house next door. He was sitting between the house and a retaining wall, trespassing, openly drinking liquor. He seemed to be waiting for people to happen by and examine the stuff in the parking lot, so he could jump out and say, "Anything you want, five bucks."

I doubt very much if he had any actual legal interest in the property at all. Or maybe it was just a guy sitting there drinking and I'm assuming too much. In any case, I saw the police take him into custody. The stuff in the parking lot disappeared a few days ago, and we sit around waiting for the next shoe to drop at "The Apartment Complex of Anarchy."

(Do not click "Read More")

Attempted Murder On 6th Street North Today image, not an actual photo from the scene

Peter Teachout called me with his firsthand account. I've asked him to email me the details, but here is what I recall from our phone conversation...

There were some individuals, including two black males, near 3116 6th Street North. They were having some kind of verbal dispute.

(Address is unconfirmed. Me and Peter put our heads together to figure out the street address, but I'm only about 80 percent sure it's the right one)

Peter was keeping an eye on the situation, not overly alarmed, but just monitoring in case things escalated. Then things escalated. One of the males got into a vehicle. I think Peter said "white conversion van" but I'm not sure. I do recall he said something about a "van."

The vehicle was not parked on the street, but close to the property. The male in the vehicle backed it up, quickly, then went forward...running down the other male at a speed Peter estimated at 30 miles per hour.

Peter called 911. The vehicle circled the block, going back to observe the results of the impact before taking off. As Peter was talking to the 911 operator, the neighbor I call "Little Jane" ran over and provided Peter with the license plate number.

The people who were with the victim bent over him. I asked Peter if he could see the guy moving, or see blood or anything like that. Peter said he couldn't really see anything, but he sure didn't see the guy get up. Police and a paramedic unit were there within about five minutes. Peter had to get to work and couldn't stay to see an ambulance arrive.

I'll write more when I know more. I did make a point of calling my favorite "Cops and Courts" reporter at the Star Tribune. If there is outrageous crime and violence on the block, we need media attention and my little blog isn't sufficient.

Only a couple days ago I was talking to somebody at Keller Williams who is trying to sell that house. (And I emphasize I have not confirmed, 100 percent, the address of the incident) He said it's a "short sale" on the mortgage and quoted me a price of $79k. I told him he was nuts.

Later, the actual listing agent called me despite my strong expression of disinterest in the property at that price. He said, "Look, we're trying to do a short sale on a mortgage, and the price is being dropped every day." He urged me to make an offer I felt was fair and offered to arrange a tour of the house. I said I'd get back to him when I completed the sale on my own house at 3016 6th Street North.

I think I need to talk to that real estate agent. I think the price needs to go, like, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down.

UPDATE: The vehicle in question was a big blue van, according to Peter. The address in question is 3118/3116 6th Street North, a white stucco duplex with a Keller Martin real estate sign out front. Today (Sunday, July 27) I was talking to Peter in front of his house, and we saw a police officer pull up and go inside the address. He wasn't in there long, and nobody came out with him.

My neighbor "Patty Cake" was surprised she didn't read about the incident in other media like the Star Tribune. I told her the media can't report on all the crime, so they probably prioritize to make sure all the murders get covered.

It is my assumption the victim of the assault lived. I believe that for this reason: there was no crime scene tape at the scene. I figure if somebody died, the Homicide Unit would block off the area with yellow tape. (But I could be wrong)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Landfill Starter Kit" Behind 3119 4th Street North (Photo Two)

Photo by John Hoff

I went by there yesterday with Jake and Gabe to document the mess. We found bottles of pills from somebody named Tequila Price, (seriously) and the worst report card I have ever seen in my life. Oh, and an overdue electric bill in excess of $1,000. Jake said the place was "depressing."

It's so hard to capture the rolling hill and panoramic vista. All the stuff in the first photo (below) is behind the stuff in this photo, which is taken from higher up on the slope.

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"Landfill Starter Kit" Behind 3119 4th Street North (Photo One)

Photo by John Hoff

A work crew went to the empty apartment complex at 3119 4th Street North, wearing masks because of the raw sewage smell which permeates the building. They threw a whole lot of stuff behind the building, and we're all waiting for it to get gone.

(Do not click "Read More")

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Level 3 Sex Offender Junaid Maalik Loses His Job

Photo By John Hoff

I was eating breakfast at Burger King when my phone rang with its Sponge Bob Square Pants ring tone, and it was the CEO of a fairly good-sized company. He'd accidentally hired a Level 3 Sex Offender, and he was pretty unhappy to learn about it from some blogger dude called Johnny Northside...

I didn't get a lot of words in edgewise. The CEO was a "power talker" and took control of the conversation immediately. He wanted me to know how glad he was I had informed him of the situation, and how Maalik had been fired the minute he walked in Monday morning. Both a state and federal background search--required as part of the hiring process for the job, which basically involved driving around--had failed to turn up the felony conviction. The CEO was beside himself that something this big and ugly could just slip through the cracks.

"Off The Scale Heinous"

"He's not just a felon, but what he did is really..." he was searching for the word.

"Heinous," I supplied, helpfully.

"Heinous," he agreed.

"Off the scale heinous," I added, and he was agreeable to that, too.

Maalik had been a reasonably good employee, however, giving no cause for concern or complaint. When fired, Maalik was meek and thankful for the opportunity he'd had to work for the company.
The CEO was concerned about some days off Maalik had taken, supposedly to tend to a sick girlfriend. I assured the CEO that Maalik may very well have a girlfriend--I had seen him with a woman who looked like she was either a girlfriend or a sister--so hopefully he hadn't been doing something awful and evil.

"He's been out of prison for two years," the CEO said. "But that doesn't mean (expletive) to me. Somebody like that shouldn't be running around unsupervised. Work in a factory on an assembly line is more appropriate."

Unimpressed With The Sex Offender Safeguards

The CEO had talked to Maalik's supervisor, Mary Ann Mowatt, and was spectacularly unimpressed with her. Here Maalik had lied about his background to get a job, and yet Mowatt didn't seem at all concerned.

"Yeah, well, I've talked to her in the past, too," I told the CEO. "Now you see the (expletive) we have to deal with."

The CEO was curious about the situation with Maalik living in a house which was past the period of foreclosure and redemption and what on earth was up with that. I filled him in as best I could. The CEO wanted to know my "angle" with this issue--he asked as tactfully as he could--and I told him I was looking out for the neighborhood, and Maalik driving a commercial vehicle had just been something which emerged in the middle of keeping an eye on the house at 3024 6th Street North.

He didn't want a stink for his company. I assured him I wasn't out to cause one. He was once again beside himself over the fact he had performed two background checks--both of which cost money--revealing nothing, and yet a mere bit of Googling had turned up this shocking information.

Lesson Learned: Google Your Employees

I suggested to the CEO that he should Google all his employees, as well as performing background checks. Just to see what turns up, I suggested.

"Maybe when you go to your business get togethers," I suggested. "Your Rotary Club or whatever, you might talk in general terms about this matter, and point out how background checks aren't perfect. It's best to do a little digging on the internet, as well."

The CEO told me he does periodically meet with others who are involved in running similar companies. He would tell them the story; and not just in general terms, but with specifics. As we talked, I could see how an anecdote like this could become almost legendary in business circles.

Company Logo Removed

I saw Maalik's dark green minivan in front of 3024 6th Street North. The company logo had been removed from the rear window, like a dishonored soldier whose uniform is stripped of rank and unit insignia. I could almost feel bad, but I keep thinking about what happened to Dru Sjodin just because dear sweet Mama Rodriguez gave a brand new car to her little Alphonso so he could drive to his sheet rocking job.

I have worked as a commercial driver to pick up extra money--the long period of blogging inactivity in mid-July was due to a trip to Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois on behalf of my employer, who kindly gave me the camera which took the very picture you see above--and the job has given me insights into the kind of opportunities for abuse inherent to the profession.

I show up with a company vehicle, I pick up cargo, (dead things in dark plastic bags) I go long distances and my time is accounted for.

Who questions what cargo is aboard? Who searches to make sure crimes have not been committed against vulnerable human beings? Nobody.

Of all the jobs you could give a violent sex offender, the job of a free ranging commercial driver is probably among the worst, at least the worst among the not-so-obvious choices. Not letting him work in a school or daycare facility is a no-brainer, but hardly anybody says, emphatically, "Sex offenders should not be allowed commercial driving jobs."

Well, Junaid Maalik's little venture into commercial driving is squelched. For now.

"All The Fault Of Society"

I was at my property--cleaning up the house and yard for a special reason I will discuss in a day or two, probably--when I looked out my second story window and saw Maalik talking to a woman in front of his house. She had pulled up in a vehicle almost identical to Maalik's vehicle, and despite the fact it bore no company insignia, I took her to be some kind of supervisor from his job.

On the other hand, maybe the similarity in vehicles was a coincidence, and this was Mary Ann Mowatt herself, dropping by. Who knows? In any case, I snapped some pictures. The one I've chosen for this post is my favorite. Maalik seems to be explaining something--how he acted reasonably in what he did, and if you want to blame something or somebody--well, blame society for putting him in a position where he had to lie to get a job.

Poor widdle Level Three Sex Offender.

Sniff. Sniff.

US Bank & Trust Inherits The Problem

I found out who owns the house at 3024 6th Street North. It is US Bank & Trust. When they foreclosed on the mortgage, they took ownership of the house...and it appears a Level 3 Sex Offender comes with the property like dog-pee-stained living room carpet.

Good luck with THIS mess, US Bank & Trust.

Jeff Skrenes of the Hawthorne Area Community Council figures if he tried to contact US Bank & Trust, he'd get the runaround for hours, even days as they tried to figure out who, precisely, is in charge of this particular problem. No, better to deal with the City of Minneapolis, and the housing inspectors.

Jeff has a call in. He is waiting to hear back.

Sigh. These things take time.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Update On The Poor Widdle Lost Sex Offender

Minn. Department of Corrections Photo

It turns out Junaid wasn't very far away at all. This weekend I was... sitting at Peter and Joy's residence, chilling out with my kid playing video games most of the time, when I noticed a vehicle pull up in front of 3024 6th Street North, the place where Junaid is registered to live but, apparently, isn't actually there very often.

The building is foreclosed and past the period of redemption, so the official word from the Hawthorne Area Community Council was: "If you see anybody there, they are trespassing, call the cops."

Given the late hour, and how quickly the vehicle killed its lights, I honestly thought it might be a bunch of fixture thieves. (I didn't take them so much for copper thieves, because the vehicle was too new and nice, but more on THAT later, since the situation with the vehicle is a whole new twist) When I saw one of the vehicle occupants entered the house with a key I thought, "Oh, that would be old tenants--perhaps even Junaid--but they're trespassing and therefore, I'll call the cops."

Call the cops I did, and the cops came relatively quickly. I saw them questioning the individuals, mostly the black female who was with the guy who looked like Junaid or his twin brother. The dispatcher called me back and explained: "These are the people who are residents of the house. Unless there is some kind of official paper on the house saying nobody can be there, we're not going to make them leave."

Like a good neighborhood activist, I got on my laptop computer and fired off emails. The next day the same vehicle came again, and I could see Junaid (or his twin brother) was actually MOVING INTO the place where, according to the sex offender locator, he had been all along. Apparently the foreclosure and passing of the redemption period presented some kind of opportunity--low hanging fruit, shall we say?--and Junaid was seizing his chance. (What else would you expect from a child molester?)

So who has Junaid now? It seems like the mortgage company has now become responsible for him as a tenant, though there is apparently no new rental license to cover the change in ownership. One assumes there is a period of time where a transition is allowed, and there is time to get a new license though, honestly, I don't even know if the water is on in that house. Water has been turned off in that house before.

These are things we are dealing with, and the city has been notified. Jeff Skrenes of the Hawthorne Area Community Council is working on it, but for good measure I called 311. The 311 operator read me the name of the former owner from the property registration, and I told her, "No, he is no longer the owner. He might be listed, but the property is foreclosed and past the period of redemption."

The City of Minneapolis may find it a low priority to get property ownership updated in its system, to get deeds registered and so forth, yet it is amazing how often we who are struggling to turn the neighborhood around are thwarted by our inability to find correct and current information on who owns what.

In any case, I got this new problem into the 311 system, I sent out emails, and Jeff Skrenes of HACC is also on top of the situation.

The next day, as Junaid (or his twin brother) and the female (his sister? his girlfriend?) removed stuff from the dark green minivan, I noticed the van was a company vehicle, bearing a prominent company logo. I thought to myself: either the female is using a company vehicle to help a Level 3 Sex Offender move his stuff, or (a much scarier possibility) this company has given Junaid (who kidnapped and sexually assaulted a young female stranger) access to a company vehicle. In this case, a minivan with dark-tinted windows.

Very comforting, that. The choice of vehicle, I mean. (Sarcasm font is broken, I will have to notify you here manually)

I speak as a bleeding heart liberal, here, but in Grand Forks, North Dakota I saw what harm could come of giving a Level 3 sex offender access to a vehicle, even if it's perfectly legal. Alphonso Rodriguez kidnapped and killed Dru Sjodin after his own dear sweet mama gave him a car to go to work.

In fact, I've talked to Bob Heales by email about this situation. Bob is the private investigator who was so involved in coordinating the search for Dru Sjodin's body and still does a lot to raise consciousness about issues involving sex offenders running around loose; like the one who killed Dru Sjodin. Click here for a link to his website.

Heales told me this: "It takes people like you to bring attention to the problem. I'm afraid there are many of these cowards who don't register their correct address. They are a ticking time bomb. The Mary Ann Wowatts (Junaid's supervising officer) of the world need to take the situations more seriously. Level 3s are the most likely to re-offend, and their crimes become increasingly more violent. You have to wonder who is next on his list?"

As somebody who does a lot of commercial driving on the side to make spare cash, I know this well: a vehicle gives you power. It is, in fact, more powerful than a gun. I don't worry about sex offenders getting access to guns. I worry about them getting access to vehicles which they will use to kidnap, transport, flee, etcetera. I don't think Level 3 Sex Offenders should be allowed to drive, at least not until they are completely out of the system through years of compliance with their supervised release. I say this based on what happened to Dru Sjodin.

There, I've said it, and though it makes me look like a red-stater, there it is. Giving a registered sex offender access to a vehicle is worse than handing that person a gun. In this case, the vehicle in question is used for employees to go to many places to make pick-ups and deliveries, and there is no reason places like elementary schools and daycare centers would be excluded.

I contacted the company which has its name on the vehicle with my concerns after getting the license plate and, of course, taking a picture of the vehicle. They sent me a polite email--cc'd to a whole slough of people at the company--and promised to get back to me. Later, they did get back to me. In fact, the CEO got back to me. They are meeting about this matter on Monday. Something was said to the effect Junaid somehow slipped through their background checking system, and the CEO asked me for some info about him.

I was, like, "Google the words 'Minnesota' and 'sex offender' and you'll find links to their names rather quickly, his among them." I'm looking forward to speaking with the CEO on Monday, but it will be mostly academic. They already told me the situation with the vehicle: Junaid owns the vehicle, but their name is on it because he works for their company. As much as I could pick up any tone from brief emails, this much is true: the CEO is not a happy camper. I sure hope nobody's head rolls but Junaid's.

Like I told the CEO: sex offenders are manipulative and deceptive by their very nature.

I can't help but wonder what Junaid told his supervising officer (Mary Ann Mowatt) about his employment situation. Did he tell Mowatt the employer knew he was a Level 3 sex offender? Because that's not what I'm hearing from the employer. And I really don't see how it would be possible to get this particular job without telling at least one fib about having a criminal record. Job applications tend to ask, quite broadly, about stuff like felonies.

Oh, I really must find out the name of the mortgage company. They will be delighted to learn they have a Level 3 Sex Offender living at a property they own, and apparently no rental license. Will they run out and get a rental license just to help dear sweet Junaid keep a roof over his sex offender head?

I kind of doubt it.

That house at 3024 6th Street North is supposed to be vacant. Nobody--including a piece of crap Level 3 sex offender--is supposed to be living there.

It's my neighborhood, and I am on it. I don't take any pleasure in it. In fact, I sincerely think sex offenders, if they are going to be allowed to be paroled, should have useful jobs mopping floors and washing dishes. I don't delight in it, but like I once inadvertently blurted out to Jeff Skrenes:

"Somebody needs to break a few omelets to make some eggs around here."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Cease Work Immediately (Photo Two)

Photo by John Hoff

Here's another image of the situation at 621 26th Avenue North...for those who dig "official paper" as much as I do.

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Cease Work Immediately (Photo One)

Photo by John Hoff 

Here is the word from Connie Nompelis about 621 26th Avenue North, which is located right next to Farview Park. This house was featured in the video shot by Jake and Gabe of 612 authentic as Connie did the "under $25,000 home tour."

A person who owns something like 39 houses--and appears to be carving out a low-income housing empire on the North Side--snapped up this house, and was doing some work on it, when the City of Minneapolis slapped up a "Cease Work" order and took steps to demo. 

Shortly after the paper went up, so did this graffiti. The garage in the back has, on previous occasions, been full of a lot of gang graffiti from The Gang Which Shall Not Be Mentioned But Is Fond Of Red. I called 311 on the graffiti. 

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Did Somebody Misplace Their Level 3 Sex Offender?

Minnesota DOJ photo

The house at 3024 6th Street North has been vacant since July 2, when the mortgage went beyond the redemption period. So Junaid Daulah Maalik clearly can't live there, not even to merely use it as his home address while not actually living there, with the Minnesota authorities who are supposed to protect us completely complicit in this charade. 

But as of today, the Minnesota Department of Justice still shows Junaid living on the 3000 block of 6th Street North. 

Has anybody lost a sex offender? 

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

"Pushback" From The Prostitutes And Drug Dealers On 6th Street North (Photo Three)

Photo by Peter or Joy Teachout
This photo reveals a lot.

I'm guessing the driver's side window was broken, and some kind of accelerant like gasoline was dumped in the front seat. That's why the door is warped and the paint is scorched off that area right below the window: because the fire burned the longest right in that area and/or some of the gas spilled on the door as it was dumped inside.

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"Pushback" From The Prostitutes And Drug Dealers On 6th Street North (Photo Two)

Photo by Peter or Joy Teachout

Here is the crispy interior of Peter's truck after the arson.
Peter said he lost "about $23" in paper money which was in the cab of the truck. Despite this frightening act against him, Peter sent out a stirring email message to rally the troops and call for our neighborhood security efforts to continue. That's why he's the chair of the Hawthorne Area Community Council.
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"Pushback" From The Prostitutes And Drug Dealers On 6th Street North (Photo One)

Photo by Joy Teachout

Before I left town for the 4th of July weekend, I told Hawthorne Area Community Council Chairman Peter Teachout to keep an eye on the vehicle in my driveway...

...and I said he should call 911 if it was set on fire or, I joked, blown up with a "plasma grenade." (This alludes to my son's repeated defeats of Peter while playing Halo 3)

The drug dealing and prostitution is so bad in the Eco Village area, and the few decent people trying to improve the area are forced to call 911 so often, that I seriously worry about leaving my car on my own property, unattended, and I had to agonize over which vehicle to leave, calculating whatever vehicle I left would be torched. (I finally decided to leave my crappy white car, figuring I would do better with an insurance settlement on that one)

Peter's wife, Joy Teachout, called me early the morning of the Fourth of July to let me know as eerie as my prediction was, it was not entirely accurate. It was their vehicle which was torched and not my crappy white car.

We discussed a robust media response instead of cowering in fear. I assisted, putting the Star Tribune in touch with Peter. The Strib did a small story on Page B2, "North Side activist awakened early by a fire raging inside his truck." (It was right next to the blurb about an intoxicated North Side mother leaving her baby on a "random doorstep.")

Fox 9 made its way to Peter's house, too, but I haven't been able to confirm any story was done.

The Star Tribune article, as usual, requires some serious "talk back." (And, as usual, I won't be posting a link because I refuse to work with Strib links scheduled to go dead)
First of all, the article alludes to the evacuation of 3101 6th Street North, the "Apartment Complex of Anarchy," and seems to suggest any "revenge" on Peter may have come from the direction of former tenants (squatters) at 3101. HOWEVER, there are drug dealers and prostitutes a-plenty on 6th Street. The evacuation of 3101 didn't cause an end to all our problems, and it's not the only source of people walking around with an unfulfilled longing for revenge.

I seriously doubt somebody from 3101 6th Street waited all this time to set Peter's vehicle on fire. The Star Tribune article is written as though anything relevant to the current story must have been in the PREVIOUS story quoting Peter Teachout, as though any pertinent information out there in the universe must already be in a Star Tribune article. Their narcissism is amusing and childlike.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Constance Nompelis Gives The Under $25,000 North Side Home Tour!


Jake and Gabe from 612 Authentic have once again captured the ongoing effort to revitalize the North Side and, somehow, fill all those empty houses with people in this, their latest video on Minn Post Dot Com.

(And, I'd like to add, it's a perfect example of my "sell the North Side" concept of "market and romanticize the struggle.")

I introduced Jake and Gabe to Connie Nompelis so I feel a sense of pride in the results of their meeting and joining Connie on her "under $25k home tour."

Also, there is one key piece of important information I can add to this particular story:

Connie is married.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Two Houses, Joined Together

Photos by John Hoff

The Polish lady pointed out she doesn't have one house, but two houses joined together. Shortly after she purchased the house, "an old man in the neighborhood" revealed this to her and then it became easy to see.

"Did they build the one house and then move another here?" I wondered. "Where did the other house come from? Or could they have moved BOTH houses here from somewhere else?"

The Polish lady didn't know. She only knew what the old man told her, and that was all he knew. I assumed it was the same old man who told her there used to be a large stables which dominated her block, which the Polish woman could confirm when her earliest gardening efforts would turn up a horseshoe or two.

The spirit of the horses is still present on the block, in Patty Cake's house which is decorated with a "cowboy" motif. It fascinates me, how something historical can still linger in odd and unexpected ways.

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Wisteria In Sasha's Old Yard

Photo by John Hoff

Here is the wisteria in the yard which once belonged to Sasha, also known as "The Russian Lady," and then was owned for a while by two gay men, until one of them died and the other moved away.

Though challenged severely by other brush, the wisteria still blooms, providing a beautiful backdrop for Kathy the Prostitute to service her johns on the cement deck behind the vacant house.

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The Day They Buried The Furnace, And Other Tales From The Block

Photo by John Hoff

The resident I call "Patty Cake" and "The Polish Lady" do not habitually refer to properties in the neighborhood by their street address, but rather by the names of the people who were once associated with the property...

...from a different, more happy era.

They refer to 400 31st Ave. North as "Neumillers." The property is now vacant and fire damaged, owned by Phil Kleindl's people.

The Day They Buried The Furnace

According to Patty, a little convenience store used to be attached to the house, right where this large grassy hump is visible, above. The city made them close the store, which sat vacant for a long time--more than a decade, easily--and finally started falling apart and become a hazard. In order to alleviate the hazard, the owners of the property tore the building down--storing a lot of the lumber right at the site--and what couldn't be torn down was simply buried.

Reportedly, they buried a gigantic furnace. Patty said the furnace "joined the horseshoes and other stuff that's underneath this ground."

I couldn't help but wonder if the furnace had pipes attached to it with hazardous asbestos. I wondered if any soil sampling had been done.

Sasha, a.k.a. "The Russian Lady"

The house where the "scary little gang garage" used to be was once owned by a woman named "Sasha," also called "The Russian Lady." The Polish Lady has a wisteria which once belonged to The Russian Lady, who had a huge garden of flowers and vegetables.

Later, two gay men acquired ownership of Sasha's house, and continued to maintain a wonderful flower garden. The Polish lady also has stuff from their garden. In fact, based on things I'm told, the Polish Lady is the "keeper of the gardens" who constantly comes into possession of people's plants when they move. But the gay men are not there anymore. One of them died about 10 years ago.

Me and Patty walked around the property, and found a wisteria and a "mock orange blossom" still surviving on the property, though hard-pressed to compete with the brush.

Kiros The Cat Goes to Neumillers To Die

The house at 400 31st Ave. N. holds a bad memory for the Polish lady, since her cat "went there to die." The cat was ill and--the Polish lady suspects--may have been poisoned by somebody. The cat got loose and walked toward Neumillers.

"Kiros, Kiros!" the Polish woman called, but the cat turned to her and made a sound which, in retrospect, the Polish woman took to mean, "Leave me alone, I'm going to die."

Later, somebody working on the house found the dead cat, recognized it as belonging to the Polish lady, and said, "The poor cat is dead in there." There were some other dead cats in the building, as well, which is why the Polish lady suspects poison.

Despite her devotion to beautiful flowers, the Polish lady's stories are not always filled with happiness. They do have a tendency to turn dark at times.

Of course, my take on the story was, "How good to live in a neighborhood with so much social capital that people recognize each other's pets, and alert their neighbor when something happens to the pet."

Scribner's House At 3033 4th Street North

For a long time, a woman named Scribner lived at 3033 4th Street North, which is now a rental property troubled by frequent (and frequently blatant) drug dealing, owned by the same outfit which owns 400 31st Avenue North. (Neumillers)

After Mrs. Scribner moved out, Scribner's son moved in upstairs and her daughter downstairs. One of them was married, for sure, but there were no kids. Patty can remember nothing particularly notable. They lived there, and left their surname in the memory of Patty and the Polish lady.

The Value of Neighborhood History

When I learn the stories of the neighborhood, I feel a sense of belonging, which makes me want to work to help the neighborhood. So I collect the stories for the wave of new residents I believe will come in the future, once the neighborhood is secure and the Eco-Village starts to become more of a reality.

These stories will come to them easily, because I have taken the effort to gather the stories to a convenient forum. The new residents will know what came before, and will be able to perceive a blank page of possibility upon which to write their own neighborhood history.

54 Open Complaints, And A Pile Of Crap Behind 416 31st Ave. N.

Photo by John Hoff

I hear when the owner of 416 31st Ave. N. had a meeting with city housing inspectors, she wept openly about her financial troubles and the expense of fixing this house, especially since the tenants she put in there (who terrorized the neighborhood for years) had walked off with the copper pipes and aluminum siding as their final, parting shot.

Workmen have been spotted going into the house. You'd think removing the big pile of crap at the edge of the property (where it meets the alley) would be the easiest task in the world, but so far it appears beyond their ability. I called it in to 311. Again. And the 311 operator told me there were "54 open complaints" against 416 31st Ave. N., mostly having to do with building codes.

Good to know.

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Where Khameron NMN Lake Did His "Business"

Photo by John Hoff

This is the very spot where Khameron used to dump his loads of fecal matter before getting caught in the act by the owner of the property. He would wipe himself with--if you can believe this--an entire shirt, then he would dump the shitty shirts in a big pile.

Where would he get the shirts? Apparently, from Sharing And Caring Hands, a homeless outreach center. "Patty" tells me the area around Sharing and Caring Hands is littered with clothing, because they give away bags of clothing and recipients tear through the bags, looking for items they want, throwing the rest away. Volunteers have to walk around just to pick up all the clothing.

When it would rain, feces juice would run down the alley, which has quite a slope. And, Patty pointed out, being a crack head Khameron never had very firm feces to begin with.

I also want to take a picture of the place where the Polish woman saw a man shot in both legs, and shouted for her elderly mother to hit the deck to avoid catching a bullet. I'll get around to that.

(Do not click "Read More")

The Lair of Kathy The Prostitute (Can You Spot The Used Condom?)

Photo by John Hoff

Me and the resident I have dubbed "Patty Cake" walked behind the place where the scary little gang garage used to be, so we could chase off a crack head because the police didn't seem to come after we called 911. (The crack head was, however, gone)

Now Kathy and her pimp, Khameron NMN Lake, apparently spend the night sleeping behind the house itself instead of in the garage, now torn down.

They've gathered what appears to be firewood and right in the middle of it, Patty spotted one of Kathy's used condoms. Ewwwwwwwwww.

(Do not click "Read More")

Greek Grape Leaf Man

Photo by John Hoff

A few days ago I was in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, and I saw this man harvesting grape leaves from a vacant lot. Yes, leaves. The leaves are used as flavorful wrappings in a certain Greek dish.

He said local leaves are nicer, fresher, more yummy than the leaves you can buy from California and, of course, free.

He told me, quite proudly, the leaves would be used in the deli owned by his family, and named the deli. (I was familiar with it) His Greek accent was delightful and even while we talked he didn't stop picking leaves. He said you need the big ones. The tender little ones, he said, "Fall apart."

Here is a recipe which calls for grape leaves.

(Do not click "Read More")

The Troubled History of 3119 4th Street North

Photo by John Hoff

A few days ago a resident told me all about 3119 4th Street North, and what she had endured from that place for so many years, and I jotted it all down...

I've written before about how Shirley Guevara let both of her apartments slip into a state of anarchy, and things got pretty bad, but according to this resident (who I will dub "Patty Cake" because she's good with children) things were actually worse when 3119 4th Street North was owned by Lin S. Chao, prior to 2000 when the building was sold to Shirley Guevara for $170,000. (Info confirmed with property records)

There were many Hmong at the place, and they had chickens in the apartment building which Patty believes were used in cock fighting. The chickens would get lose and fly into Patty Cake's yard or the yard of the Polish woman. An older woman at the property was terminally ill and was always smoking some awful-smelling stuff to make her feel better.

The precise nature of the stuff the old woman smoked was unknown, but she was quite ill and in pain, so perhaps it was opium. The smoke smell wasn't the only issue: sewage was always backing up in the building, filling the structure with an odor so strong the children would get sick from smelling it. Patty gave the residents some fans to blow out the smell, so the kids wouldn't grow ill. Unfortunately, that blew more of the smell toward Patty.

Sometimes little children would be in the yard in the winter, not adequately dressed, and Patty would take it on herself to get involved.

Some of the young Hmong in the building were involved with gangs, and drive-by shootings took place. Shells would be out in the street and members of the Minneapolis police department would come by and kindly pick up the shells. Once they retrieved a gun from the bushes.

Now the building sits vacant, and there is relative peace and quiet. But there is a FOR SALE sign out front, (knocked down and leaning over the fence) and the question is who will get the building?

Will it be somebody like the city or the county? Or will it be yet another slumlord?

"We are absolutely overwhelmed over here," a resident told the Mayor's office a year ago

Photo by John Hoff

A year ago, a North Side resident wrote a long email to the Mayor's Office about problem properties in her neighborhood, especially 3119 4th Street North. The email was forwarded to me for use on this blog because, unfortunately, very little has changed in the year since it was written...

Here it is, in its entirety.

I wanted to let you know what has been going on in my neighborhood and who I have contacted in the past regarding my concerns.

Besides the numerous calls I've made to 911 regarding 3119 4th Street North, I've had conversations with Mike Karney (housing inspector), Don Benum and the 4th Precinct and the crack team, citizen crime prevention, County Commissioner Stegland, garbage complaint department, boarded buildings, public housing, Rocco Forte, Melanie Pogutchnik (the inspector with the fire department who is supposed to be monitoring 3119), Police Chief Tom Dolan, Homicide Unit, Lee Edwards, Diane Hofstede, Tom Deegan of Problem Properties, Safe Unit Mary Ezciony, Hillary Freeman from the Problem Solvers meetings, Sergeant Aradonde, and the Community Response Team.

My concerns have included drug dealing, prostitution, garbage, noise, pit bulls, homeless folks and prostitutes living in boarded up houses, disassembling of copper pipes in abandoned houses, violence in the streets, people being shot at and killed in the streets.

The three addresses that are of the most concern to myself and other home owners are 3101 6th Street North, 3119 4th Street North, and 416 31st Ave. N. The first two are apartments, and they are owned by the same woman.

On 4/4/07 I called 311 with my concerns regarding 3119 4th Street North. I believe you may be able to check on some of the problems with these tracking numbers: 90512, 84403, 84405, 84407, 84410, and 84411. Also, 95041 for 3112 6th Street North.

I recently received a return phone call from Melanie Pogutchnik stating she had been out to 3119 4th and all the complaints were inspected by the fire department and cleared. When I told her that windows were still missing and some were replaced by chicken wire she stated that she also lives by "problem properties and there is nothing you can do about it."

I know Melanie has had a history with this apartment building as she used to be the housing inspector in the Hawthorne area. The continuous problems seem to be mainly between the two apartments. (3101 6th Street North and 3119 4th Street North) Unfortunately, I live between these two apartments. And 416 31st Avenue North is a house between these two apartments that also has a lot of drug activity.

I know the police are aware of it and have raided the place. There are only a few owner-occupied homes in the area that have been trying for YEARS to clean this area up. On the south side of 31st between 4th Street and 6th, all the houses have been boarded up or burned down.

We are absolutely overwhelmed over here. My neighbor had to take out $50,000 in loans last year when they came through with their inspections "sweep." I had to put up a retaining wall to stop the erosion onto the boulevard, but now the water continues to run onto my boulevard from the erosion and runoff from 3119 4th Street North which nobody has addressed. I am having difficulty understanding how this neighborhood continues to deteriorate and the responsible neighbors are the ones who continue to be penalized.

Please let me know if this information has been helpful and I hope that this time my efforts won't be in vain. Thank you for your interest and I hope you will be able to help correct the situation we have been forced to live with for so many years.