Sunday, August 31, 2008

Opposing RNC 2008: Missile D*** Chicks Pull Into Town (Photo 1)

Photo by John Hoff

I'd never seen anything like the vehicle which drove past me on Washington Ave. SE. It was some kind of heavy duty tow truck, converted into a cartoony "missile launcher" carrying a "mega-missile."

At first I thought these were fanatical red-white-and-blue Republican war supporters, but then I realized it was...

...a parody of some sort.

Yes, indeed, it was the "Missile D*** Chicks," an outrageous theatrical anti-war group which had just recently attended DNC 2008. They were, like me, an equal opportunity offender.

They crowded around me and wanted their pictures taken because, as it turned out, I was wearing a "Dixie Chicks" t-shirt.

"People get us confused with the Dixie Chicks all the time!" said one of the Missile D*** Chicks, a claim which seemed, well, extravagant. But what ISN'T extravagant about this group? This is the kind of spectacle I was seeking; uber-spectacle, a spectacle BEYOND mere protest. Spectacle that bends your mind and it doesn't snap back the same way.

One of them made me touch her missile. I (shudder) liked it.

Opposing RNC 2008: Members of RNC Welcoming Committee Wait Outside Detention Facility For Their Comrades (Photo 3)

Photo by John Hoff

I liked the patch on John's pants. He didn't mind me taking a picture of it.

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Opposing RNC 2008: Members of RNC Welcoming Committee Wait Outside Detention Facility For Their Comrades (Photo 2)

Photo by John Hoff

"Marshall Jim" clowns around in front of the St. Paul detention facility. The yellow stripes above his head are the reflective vets of members of what appear to be the Minnesota National Guard, milling around behind him.

As I left, John began signing an off-key rendition of "Baby Come Back." It was my impression they'd been there many hours, and were going a little bit stir-crazy.

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Opposing RNC 2008: Members of RNC Welcoming Committee Wait Outside Detention Facility For Their Comrades (Photo 1)

Photo by John Hoff

A detention facility for protesters is located along Lafayette Road in St. Paul, just south of the intersection of Lafayette and University Avenue. There, four true blue loyal friends of the "RNC 6" (or is it 5?) wait, backs up against a cement barricade, for the release of their friends...

The detention facility is along the planned protest route for Tuesday's Poor People's Protest. That should be interesting. I ran into four young people waiting in front of the facility; only two were willing to be photographed. To the left is "Marshall Jim," cleverly disguised in a DARE t-shirt so he will look "like a fascist." To the right is a guy called "John." Two young women are not pictured, and when asked for her alias, one of them said she preferred to be known as "Not Here."

They were keenly aware of the police raid on the St. Paul convergence center at 627 Smith Ave. S., and thought the seizure of gray water as "buckets of urine" was particularly ridiculous. Marshall Jim was barefoot, his shoes nearby. They appeared to have been waiting a long time. Nearby police and National Guard personnel appeared to be leaving them alone for the moment.

Opposing RNC 2008: Delegates Lost And Driving Around, Thanks To Bridge Construction

Photo by John Hoff

I can't help wanting to help folks who are lost, but I keep having to tell myself the town is FULL OF REPUBLICAN DELEGATES and maybe...

I shouldn't be my helpful self, so much. But when I was taking a break from biking to St. Paul (to check out the protest routes) and sitting at Arby's, re-using my shake cup to drink diet Cola (I paid for both beverages, explaining I was an environmental radical) some lady from Wyoming came into the restaurant, lost, and I just couldn't stop myself from helping her. She wanted to drive to Mall of America and shop.

I found myself slipping into bi-partisan mode, but only because she wasn't driving an SUV. An SUV will make me a partisan, every time. I was actually run down by an SUV on my bike, once.

Well, anyway, the nice lady from Wy-oh-ming didn't realize University Avenue becomes a one-way where it meets 4th Street, and she become lost and turned around. I told her to stay on Fourth and go down to where you can find the on-ramp for I-35. I actually had the map out I plan to use in the streets during the protests, showing the (quite probable) Wyoming delegate this stuff.

Once she got to that point, well, she should stop and get MORE instructions, I said. The problem was the bridge was out--it had collapsed, 13 people were killed, it was a big deal--and now everybody using University Avenue as a logical route to get to "35" had to figure out how to get around the bridge by driving into the West Bank and finding their way back to "35." What a mess!

Actually, I've been noticing this particular phenomenon for quite a while. A gas station I patronize frequently near the site of the bridge collapse has become amazingly adept and practiced at giving Mall of America directions. Everybody else has been inconvenienced, lost and mis-routed for more than a year, so why shouldn't it be true of the delegates, as well?

Is it any wonder Governor Pawlenty didn't get selected to become Vice President? Think about the value of infrastructure, Republican delegates, while you enjoy the no-tax-on-clothing at Mall of America. If you can find your way there.

Opposing RNC 2008: Nobody Told "Frogtown" To Clean Up Its Act (Photo 2)

Photo by John Hoff

Here is the kind of litter I loathe the most: phone books tossed on the steps of business locations which are clearly vacant. You can see this all along University Avenue on the way to the State Capitol Building.

I'm embarrassed to see St. Paul looking like this when delegates from all over the nation are in town. I've advocated for a change of policy in Minneapolis, but St. Paul needs it, too: tossing a phone book in front of a property which is clearly, undeniably vacant should be considered littering.

But, hey, our Republican friends will tell you there's PLENTY of trees. CUT 'EM DOWN AND MAKE PHONE BOOKS, THEN THROW THOSE PHONE BOOKS IN THE TRASH. Don't worry, earth will grow MORE and there's plenty of natural resources up in ALASKA.

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Opposing RNC 2008: Nobody Told "Frogtown" To Clean Up Its Act (Photo 1)

Photo by John Hoff

I spent hours today biking along the planned protest march routes, learning the terrain. While heading toward downtown St. Paul, I biked through Frogtown and noticed...

...the streets were full of litter. It was even worse than usual, and usually it's pretty bad. And folks might think, "Well, who cares about Frogtown, anyway? The delegates are all downtown."

Not really. If you want to drive to Mall of America--and a lot of the delegates do, including one person I met who was probably from the Wyoming delegation--a very logical route to take is University Avenue toward the on-ramp for I-35.

At that point, you will run into the bridge construction and get lost and confused, but I'll get to that in my next post. In any case: University Avenue is a main traffic artery, which is one of the reasons it is becoming the future light rail route. And in the area of Frogtown and Midtown, University way looks AWFUL.

I mean, I understand we can't ask the downtrodden and crack-addicted to get off the street during RNC 2008. This isn't China, after all, and let the Republicans see the poor and addicted, I say, while they whiz right past in a rented SUV. But, good grief, didn't anybody in the St. Paul government have the foresight to say: right before the convention, lets send crews up and down University Avenue to pick up the litter so it looks a little better.

No. Apparently not.

I saw one guy out on the sidewalk painting the awning of his shop.

Good man, I thought.

I may not like the Republicans a whole lot, but I sure hate to see my city looking awful in front of them. And, yes, I pick up my fair share of plastic bottles, toss 'em in my (green) bike basket, and recycle 'em when I get back to campus. Which is more than so many Republicans do. Drill through a polar bear, why don't ya?

Opposing RNC 2008: Marshal Training At Room 25, Humphrey Institute

Photo by John Hoff

A couple of the participants in the protest marshal training had to haul their bike tires into Room 25 at the Humphrey Center, because bike theft is so common on campus. This was indeed a gathering of folks who care about world peace and the earth. I've spent a few years taking classes at the Humphrey, yet this is the FIRST TIME I've seen somebody walk into a class room with a couple "quick release" bike tires in hand.

Rock on, earth-friendly people.

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Opposing RNC 2008: Crowd Control Among The Crowd Controllers

Photo by John Hoff

There's one in every crowd, even when it's a group of would-be crowd controllers. Here's a picture of the guy I blogged about earlier, who thinks everything--the marshal training, the protests at RNC 2008, the question-and-answer session--is all about his desperate psychological need to be heard at length by a group of peers...

Right before the question-and-answer session, the person at the front of the room said to be sure these were QUESTIONS and not SPEECHES or STATEMENTS. And furthermore, she would be calling on the people who had NOT ALREADY ASKED A QUESTION. A small, knowing titter of laughter came from the crowd.

You could tell why these things were being said. Well, most people could, anyway. A bore is a bore because he doesn't know he's a bore, after all.

As one might expect, the instructions about the question-and-answer session didn't stop Attention Needing Man from pushing up his hand right away. WAY UP. And actually thrusting himself off his chair, like his hand was a rocket ship and he was following it out into spaaaaaaaaace.

When he figured out the speaker wasn't looking in his direction he moved to the left side of the room (the speaker's right side) so he could be over in THAT corner, and put up his hand, again.

He'd take the hand down when somebody else asked a question, then he'd put it up when the answer to the question seemed to be wrapping up. He was quick to misjudge when something was "wrapping up," so the raised hand went up--quickly down--slowly up, like a fiddle head fern uncurling itself. Oops. Wrong moment. Back down again.

Here he is doing that. Note the hand.

Sigh. I think the crowd control people are going to do a fine job...well, I should say, 99 percent of them.

If they were intent on being 100 percent tactically effective, there would be a minor purging of the ranks IMMEDIATELY.

I'm sure the Republicans have their own excruciating, vicariously-embarassing moments like this.

Good heavens, I hope so, or all is lost.

Opposing RNC 2008: "The Triangle of Hell" And Other Nuggets From Protest Marshal Training

Photo by John Hoff

Protest Marshal training just wrapped up at Room 25 of the Humphrey Institute, concluding with such mundane and necessary things as t-shirt distribution. The deal is you can have a shirt for free, yes, BUT IF YOU TAKE A SHIRT YOU...


Some of the things covered at the training were as follows.

* Counter-protesters will be there, of course. Do not get into a verbal back-and-forth with them, you're not going to change their mind and they certainly won't change yours.

* In an attempt to be "fair and balanced," the media will probably give coverage to the counter-protesters who are protesting on behalf of, for example, MORE WAR. Get up close to the counter-protesters and get your own signs in the frame of the picture, to compete with their message.

* There is an area on the march which is messy and has gained the nickname "Triangle of Hell." This area could become quite problematic with expected protest crowds of 50,000, plus police, plus counter-demonstrations. Be aware of this problematic area.

* The powers-that-be, in their wisdom, have created a LOTTERY SYSTEM for the protest. Yes, some individuals will be allowed to "take to a stage" inside an area close to XCel Center and be up there saying whatever they want to say, whether it involves talking about their Masters thesis or whatever.

No, seriously. The Masters thesis is a real example.

This will be going on right in the middle of the march. Best to ignore it.

* A question from the crowd: what is the deal with the time allotment? What if the protest march goes very slowly, and it drags over into the time allowed? The answer appeared to be the police won't be hard-nosed about it.

* An analysis of the police tactics: the police have tried to do everything possible to scare people out of protesting. But once people are actually there, in front of the media cameras of the world, it's really not in the interest of the police to let loose on the crowd.

* A question from the crowd: are there not some OTHER persons who are trying to fulfill a "peacekeeper" role who will be present? The response was kind of sharp: the people in question were invited to be part of this training, but they aren't here. If they're not here, they're not looked upon as official marshals.

* The police say no bikes will be allowed along the protest route. Wow. First I'm hearing of that. That's just stupid.

Opposing RNC 2008: Marshal Training At Room 25, Humphrey Institute (There's One In Every Crowd)

Photo by John Hoff

There are very few newbies at the marshal training, so much of what is said is pretty standard fare. But there's always somebody whose personality becomes like grit in the wheels of history...

The "training" consists mostly of somebody talking at the crowd, saying what the sheet of music is which all of them will be on. There is little fun or excitement, like simulated sumo-wrestling while wearing pillow pads, or actors simulating a ranting and raving counter-protest. Maybe they will get to some of that, though, or just maybe that will never happen because, well...

There's one in every crowd. You can tell who they are by their shouted remarks, their long introduction, and then, at a key moment, seizing the stage: Yes, I have ONE QUESTION AND TWO COMMENTS. (It's not the guy in the picture, I should point out. He is making himself USEFUL by fetching more chairs, but maybe one less chair could have been for the best)

Mr. Attention Seeker seizes his moment. The person in the front calls on him. Now he can bore the crowd with his long-winded so-called question.

Drone. Drone. Drone. And due to some unfortunate physical and/or mental condition, the guy can't actually ENUNCIATE very well. He says he's part of Vietnam Veterans against the war, but looks just a wee bit too young to have been a part of that conflict and, well, he never would have survived life in a platoon where fragmentation grenades are readily available.

The training might commence again soon enough. That might happen when the person running it stops trying to be so polite and tells Mr. Wants The Spotlight All To Himself that "we have to move on..."

Then again, in a crowd THIS politically correct, that might NEVER happen. There are advantages and disadvantages to hierarchical versus non-centralized systems of organization, but one undeniable advantage of hierarchy is this: the person in charge (and there is a person like that) can tell the long-winded attention seeker from the peanut gallery to SIT HIMSELF DOWN, because he is boring people to tears and mostly just looking for an excuse to talk about HIMSELF.

Opposing RNC 2008: Marshal Training At Room 25, Humphrey Institute

Photo by John Hoff

Room 25, Humphrey Institute, U of M, was packed to overflowing. Many participants in the back had to stand.

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Opposing RNC 2008: Protest Marshal Training Begins At Room 25, Humphrey Institute

Photo by John Hoff

A crowd of 175 to 200 individuals crowded into Room 25 of the Humphrey Institute at 2 PM today, beginning "marshal training" in preparation for massive protests expected in the next few days near XCel Center and the State Capitol...

Most of the participants were local but one hailed from New Jersey and there appeared to be quite a contingent from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. More than half of the participants represented some organization, chiefly anti-war and anti-poverty groups. Some media were present. I was asked "not to film the training itself" but it was unknown whether the television camera in the room was also planning to abide by that request.

Introductions started at approximately 2 PM and the training is happening as I write this. More to follow.

(Upcoming Content) Alleged Drug House At 2207 6th Street North

Photos by Kevin

My plan is to blog about nothing but RNC 2008 for the next several days until the Republicans are gone; leaving nothing much but piles of plastic bottled water containers they didn't bother to recycle because, you know, (expletive) the planet as far as Republicans are concerned. Drill right through a polar bear because soon enough Jesus Himself will come back and say, "Well done, good and faithful servants, cutting down all those trees. Why did you leave so many, though?"

In the meantime, however, here is a peek at some upcoming "North Minneapolis" content.

The house at 2207 6th St. N. is believed to be "probably responsible for the majority of the drug trade" in that part of the Hawthorne neighborhood. A reader sent several pictures and told me the story to go with the pictures. That stuff will go up on this blog in the near future. I hope lots more people will send their pictures and stories so can expose the crack houses in North Minneapolis and get the political will we desperately need to DRIVE THE CRACK HEADS OUT OF OUR NEIGHBORHOODS and TURN THIS PLACE INTO SOMETHING BETTER.

Yesterday somebody called me on my cell phone and I had the following conversation, something like this:

Unknown Female: " put my picture up on that internet, didn't you?"

Me: "Maybe. I'm sure you're not even going to tell me your name though, are you?"

Unknown Female: "I'm going to get a lawyer and sue you."

Me: "I don't have time to talk to you."

I've got a huge backlog of North Minneapolis content, including the story of how I bought an old crack house and almost doubled my money in a few months, but all that will have to wait.

History is being made out in the streets. Why sit and read a blog?


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KSTP Reporter OWNED By RNC Welcoming Committee (One More Picture)

Photo by John Hoff

I already wrote quite a bit about the incident with the Channel 5 KSTP reporter and the RNC Welcoming Committee in this blog post, but here is one more photo I just had to share.

Somebody has a VERY pretty hat.

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Desperate Burger Heist Caper A Couple Blocks From The Virginia/Virgin Islands Delegation to RNC 2008

Photo by John Hoff

Here the two suspects are led around to the squad car in the parking lot of Burger King, Stadium Village, Minneapolis. See that bag in the officer's hand? EVIDENCE!!! But of WHAT? Evidence of hunger, desperation and need.

Proverbs 6:30, "Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry."

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Desperate Burger Heist Caper A Couple Blocks From The Virginia/Virgin Islands Delegation to RNC 2008

Photos by John Hoff

On the patio of Burger King in Stadium Village, Minneapolis, officers handcuff and search two young men suspected of trying to scam a couple sandwiches. The guy in the top picture is Burger Buddy Two, who sat on the patio, laughing and eating, while his comrade, below, tried to shake loose more food on the basis of a dreadful "mistake" being made with the delivery of the order.

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Just Blocks From Where The Republican Delegates Are Staying: A Desperate Plot To Scam Two Whopper Juniors Results In Arrest

Photo by John Hoff

At the point where Washington Ave. SE starts to segue into University Ave. SE, there is a pocket of seediness near the blood plasma center, liquor store and--most especially--the Burger King establishment, which stays open all night and sometimes seems to double as a homeless shelter. Today...

...a young man attempted a desperate scam to procure two whopper junior sandwiches, and the foiled plot resulted in his arrest and the brief detention of his comrade.

The scheme went something like this. Burger Buddy One paid for two whopper juniors with cash from his pocket, then left the counter to run outside and take care of some business on the sidewalk which involved, it appeared, bills passing back and forth near the No. 16 bus.

"I'm with him," said Burger Buddy Two, still standing at the counter. "That's my homeboy." And Burger Buddy Two picked up the sandwiches when they were ready and went outside on the patio to eat.

Burger Buddy One now approached the counter, incensed. Why had his sandwiches been handed over to some other person? Why was this person now sitting outside, eating the sandwiches he, himself, had actually paid for? And look, here was his receipt.

"Talk to your friend," was the response. "He said he was with you."

"I don't gotta talk to him!" came the shouted reply. "What the (expletive) are you saying? Why I gotta talk to HIM when I PAID FOR THEM TWO WHOPPER JUNIORS? Now give me my food, b----."

He was told the police would be called if he didn't leave the counter. The response was to "go ahead, call the police. Call the police on YOURSELF, because you just ripped me off." He kept repeating the phrase, "You got it all twisted" and pleaded, "Why do you have to get it all twisted like that?"

This expletive-laced line of argument went on for quite some time, and Burger Buddy One refused to leave the counter area, loudly insisting he would indeed have his food which he bought and paid for. At one point, during my own transaction for a filet-o-fish sandwich meal, my order was almost mixed up with another order. Burger Buddy One immediately seized on the incident as rhetorical ammunition.

"Yeah, make sure you give HIM the right order! What the (expletive) do I have to do to get the food I paid for?"

Meanwhile, Burger Buddy Two was chowing down on the sandwiches in the patio area and, a couple of times, appeared to be laughing. It was pointed out to Buddy One that Buddy Two was laughing at him, and he was told, repeatedly, he should just leave and join his friend and stop insisting on two free sandwiches before he got arrested.

At one point, Buddy Two knocked on the window and gestured to Buddy One, who in return made an impatient gesture with his hand and scrunched his face into an irritated, desperate look as though to say, "Don't be acting like you're with me, or you'll blow the whole thing!"

When the police arrived there was very little said. I expected some kind of conversation about the basis of the disagreement, a rational analysis of the key assumptions underlying the delivery of the two sandwiches to the (alleged) comrade instead of the person who had, in fact, paid for the meal. There was none of that. The officer walked up to Burger Buddy One, grabbed his arm, and slapped him in cuffs.

The conversation with the manager was brief, and then Buddy One was led outside to the area where Buddy Two was sitting. Soon enough Buddy Two was also in handcuffs, his face in a look of dismay. The two were interviewed separately. At one point, Buddy Two was made to sit on the sidewalk near the squad car, and dropped his head in dismay and disbelief.

Eventually, Buddy Two was released and Buddy One was left in the back of the squad car. The officer who had searched Buddy One methodically wiped his hands with a Wet Nap, then tossed the used Wet Nap in a nearby industrial-sized dumpster piled high with debri.

Sitting in the front of the squad car, one of the officers held up a muffin--which he may have purchased at some point at the nearby Caribou Coffee establishment--and slowly, methodically, I would say LOVINGLY unwrapped the pastry in the front seat, while Buddy One sat in the back, burger-less and now, it would appear, also muffin-less.

The squad car drove away. Somewhere, quite nearby, the Virginia and Virgin Islands delegation were doing whatever it is delegates do during their lunch hour.

Virginia/Virgin Islands Republican Delegates Unmolested In The Heart of U of M Campus

Photo by John Hoff

Above is the sorry sight which has caused me to lose a great deal of faith and hope in the college students of today. These banners welcoming the Virginia/Virgin Islands delegates to the Republican National Convention are...

...hanging off the front of the Radisson hotel in Stadium Village, right in the heart of the U of M campus. In fact, I seem to recall the U of M may actually own this property and might have some kind of long term lease with U of M. While I'm not 100 percent positive about THAT, I am completely sure of THIS:

Thousands of students are walking by, moving into apartments and dorms, registering for classes and so far it appears not one of them has had a notion of getting a few signs and protesting out front on the sidewalk, right within easy walking distance of campus. I mean, how HARD would it be?

I wonder if the Virginia delegation is eating at my favorite restaurant right across the street, Village Wok, and noticing jellyfish are on the menu, and then having a laughing conversation about--good heavens, why does ANYBODY believe in global warming just because JELLYFISH ARE SWARMING THE OCEAN?

If nobody else will say it on the sidewalk, I will say it on this blog: kiss my backside, Virginia/Virgin Islands delegation to the Republican National Convention. Oh, and I hope you really enjoy my next post, which is dedicated to you.

Ron Paul Supporters March To Federal Reserve (Photos 4,5)

Photo by John Hoff

Consistent with their "evolution of the revolution" theme, and their homage to "The Spirit of '76," the Ron Paul march to the Minneapolis Federal Reserve featured historic American flags, such as the "Don't Tread On Me" banner.

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Ron Paul Supporters March To Federal Reserve (Photo 3)

Second Photo By John Hoff

It was my impression this individual in the front of the march was Ron Paul himself. Compare to Ron Paul's photo, above.

I'm kicking myself. I should have shook the man's hand. No, I'm not voting for him--I'm voting for the Green Party candidate, whoever that might be--but a presidential candidate is a very cool thing, even if snowballs in Hades stand a better chance.

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Ron Paul Suppoters March To Federal Reserve (Photo 2)

Photo by John Hoff

The Ron Paul march to the Federal Reserve Building (the current building, I mean) had a small, low-key police presence. Even THAT wasn't really needed.

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Ron Paul Supporters March To Federal Reserve (No, Not The Fed Buildng Which Is Now A Strip Club)

Photo by John Hoff

Approximately 75 supporters of Ron Paul, a couple police officers and a handful of media were spotted marching down University Ave. SE in the general direction of downtown Minneapolis. Some of the supporters said they were marching to the Federal Reserve and I couldn't resist pointing out...

...the historic Federal Reserve Building in Minneapolis has been converted to an upscale strip club called Shiek's Palace Royale. That's not the one they were marching to, was it? They said it wasn't. They were from out of town and this was news to them.

The front of the march paid homage to the famous "Spirit of '76" painting, with an older man in a tri-corner cap leading the march, flags waving, at least one drum. A common t-shirt in the crowd of Libertarians said "The Evolution of the Revolution." The crowd was split in half, sometimes, as the Paul-ites paused for stop lights in the manner of rather inexperienced demonstrators/marchers.

The rally paused for a moment at the site of the I-35W bridge collapse and reconstruction. I halfway expected some kind of discussion about how purist Libertarians would manage to have a nation with infrastructure like roads and bridges (through corporations? Private toll roads? A return to 1776-era transport methods?) but there appeared to be no discussion, just a moment or two to gaze at the bridge-in-progress and then turn, again, toward their goal of the Federal Reserve.

I suggested to one marcher that if they wanted to find some Republicans to protest, they should indeed stand outside Shieks Palace Royale. He laughed and agreed.

Blocks later, some stragglers with Ron Paul signs ran in the direction of the march.

"They went that-a-way," I offered, helpfully.

KSTP Reporter OWNED By RNC Welcoming Committee

Photos by John Hoff

Tonight, each time a reporter from KSTP Channel 5 tried to record his little piece, a member of the RNC Welcoming Committee stood in the background and yelled "Free the RNC 6!" It happened at about 11 P.M. Saturday night, at the RNC's "convergence center" located at 627 Smith Street South, St. Paul...

...and I was there.

Hoping to provide independent media coverage, I biked to the location on Smith Street South. There is a spectacular view of the State Capitol Building visible along a portion of Smith Street South just after the RNC WC "convergence center." It kind of makes you want to march all the way down Smith Street to the Capitol.

The convergence center itself is in a small brick building bearing a "FOR SALE" sign. Numerous bikes are secured all around the entrance on every available street post and sign, with intense anarchist/nature child types milling about, smoking, leaning close to each other to have conversations. Every now and then, a few more bikers arrive, or a few more leave. At one point, a group of approximately 6 bikers were seen leaving, together, heading off on what appeared to be some kind of late night mission of mischief.

A "Security Culture"

A few hours before I arrived, some decision had apparently been made to allow no more media inside the building, including bloggers. Two women at the door asked for credentials in regard to who I was and what I was doing. Though they appeared satisfied I was somebody in sympathy with their general goals, one of the women said their "current protocol" was to allow no media inside the building. They said another self-described blogger had been made to leave a short while before. They were, however, willing to give me a drink of water, since I had biked very far and was thirsty. One of the women brought the water in a red plastic "kegger" style cup. While I waited, a young man asked if he could use my map of Minneapolis to check something.

The fun is on the other side of the street

A news crew from KSTP Channel 5 was across the street and appeared to be a source of annoyance to the RNC Welcoming Committee. The crew wasn't being allowed inside the building, but was determined to stand on the other side of the street, point their cameras at the anarchists, and say whatever they were going to say which (the RNC WC assumed) would be harsh, one-sided, and unfair.

One of the RNC WC seemed more focused on the Channel 5 camera crew than his comrades. It turned out he was plotting a spontaneous direct action of mainstream media disruption. This action seemed somewhat independent of his comrades, but apparently not opposed by them. The young man was a white male, appearing perhaps 16 or 17, and was wearing a cartoonish fake gray beard which made him appear like a youthful version of Jackie Broyles from Red State Update.

He first engaged the camera crew in conversation while they were off the air, conversing with the cameraman in particular. There seemed to be a disagreement over something the cameraman said, something about how if people are "up in the face" of police, "of course" the police are going to "retaliate." This didn't sit very well with the young man at all, I thought.

The news reporter was trying to record his piece, using the RNC WC convergence center across the street as his backdrop. He got more backdrop than he bargained for. Standing there in his cartoonish beard--which he accented with a pair of dark glasses--the young man was not stepping out of the camera shot. He just wasn't. The reporter asked him to get away, to get back. The young man stepped out into the street and a decent distance from the reporter's personal space, but he wasn't leaving the frame of the shot.

"It's his street, too," I said, because it was just the four of us--the young man, myself, and the KSTP 5 camera crew--and the young man needed some psychological support. This way it was even: two against two. That was more fair.

Waiting for his moment

The young man--I will call him "Lumberjack"--was savvy enough to wait until the lights were on, the camera was live, and the reporter was trying to record his little lines. Perfectly timing his action, he let out with a shout: FREE THE RNC SIX!

I was instantly swayed by this argument. In a heartbeat, I was informed and had made up my mind: what was the point of holding 6 anarchists on charges? Six anarchists can't agree on anything, not even which vegan co-op would be best for supper. Clearly, they weren't involved in a conspiracy because there were too many of them. The natural state of human beings is liberty: why were the laws of nature being trampled upon?

"FREE THE RNC 6!" I shouted, in agreement.

The reporter glared at me in reproach. He expected this kind of thing from the anarchists, but I was supposed to be some kind of blogger; a fellow member of the media.

"Sorry," I said. "I got caught up in the moment."

I didn't get the reporter's name, though he's pictured very clearly in these images. He sure is pretty. For a guy, I mean.

The repoter tried taping his little segment again. And the same thing happened again: FREE THE RNC SIX!!!!

Did I mention I was recording all this on video? Well, I was. I have to get that tape out in the world, somehow, before all this RNC stuff blows over like CS gas in a stiff breeze.

Am I going to be on TV? Huh, huh, huh?

The funniest part was when the camera crew was leaving. Lumberjack was asking if he would be on televison, if he would somehow be able to see the broadcast over the internet? He sounded like an excited teenager who wanted to get a copy of a picture from prom.

"Yeah," the reporter said, tiredly, "Check the website."

Well, I checked the website a moment ago. There's nothing there. Promises, promises. See, this is why the anarchists don't like the mainstream media. Because they open up their mouths and big whopping lies spill out.

Mysterious Man In The Red Pickup

After jumping in to support the Lumberjack's direct action of mainstream media disruption, I was sort of his friend. Lumberjack and another young man who came over from the direction of the convergence center had a concern. There was a creepy guy in an oversized red pickup truck. He was pointing the camera toward them, taping, and talking in a cell phone. Who was he? An undercover police officer? A republican operative?

Lumberjack boldly walked up to the guy's truck window to ask his business while I watched and managed to snap one picture; not a very good picture. There was a brief conversation, and then the headlights of the truck came on and the truck took off.

Lumberjack related what had happened. He'd asked the guy "who are you with?" The guy (a white male in his early 50s, with a tattoo of an eagle on one of his forearms) said, "I'm with me." Lumberjack pointed at the eagle tattoo and said, "What's that tattoo all about?" The man in the truck replied, "None of your (expletive) business," and that's when he took off.

The party is just getting started

It's still a full day until Monday, the day expected to have the most arrests, and the fun is already kicking off. Stop reading this history and go out and make your own mark on the course of human events.

All out!!!! All out!!! All out to protest RNC 2008!!!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

For The Next Few Days This Blogger Will Be "Gone Fishing" (For The Republicans Who Are Running This Country Into The Ground)

Photo by John Hoff

It finally seems to be kicking off...the excitement, the spectacle, the party in the streets!

No, not the Republican National Convention. I mean, rather, the protests, the direct action and activism ASSOCIATED with the Republican National Convention...

My friend Alice Battey is unable to come to the protests because her mother has cancer, and has been very ill for a while, but some weeks ago I told Alice, "A lot can be done by email, by blogging, by putting footage up on Youtube that friends can send to you with a cell phone. If you have to stay behind the front lines, you can still play a valuable supportive role."

Well, it is through an email from Alice that I've found out about a police raid on 627 Smith Ave. in St. Paul, so it appears the excitement expected at RNC 2008 is FINALLY kicking off.

So you might be thinking...wait a minute, doesn't Johnny Northside LOVE THE POLICE and loathe PROSTITUTES AND CRACK HEADS and cry out, all the time, for LAW AND ORDER?

Absolutely. But North Minneapolis is in its current state because of woeful oversight of the mortgage industry by two Republican administrations. I prefer the ideals of the Green Party and do not like what the Republicans have done to our nation and North Minneapolis. I love and respect the police, but it is vitally important at this juncture of history to be out in the streets creating a more compelling spectacle than RNC 2008.

For that reason I am dropping most of my routine activities for the next several days, however long it takes to see the fat, gray Republican backside swaying its way out of town and the street protests triumphant. (I will note, however: I respect John McCain as a warrior and I refuse to personally diss the man, even while I find it necessary to participate in the street protests)

You should do the same. You should stop reading this blog, drop everything, and make your way to 627 Smith Ave. in St. Paul, or whatever intersection has word of the most important action, or you should play a supportive role via internet for the next several days. This is one of those rare moments when our nation's history is undoubtedly being written, and what we do in the next few days will determine what, exactly, is written.

Here are some planned protests I know about: STUDENT STRIKE! Thursday, September 4, 11 AM walk out of class and go to State Capitol by any means. 12-4, anti-war festival, rally and theater.

September 4, 4PM, Really at the State Capitol followed by a March to the XCel Energy Center.

FREE BUSES, Sept. 1, 10 AM, Sept. 4, 3 PM, at the following U of M Campus locations.

1.) East Bank Behind Coffman Memorial Student Union, 2.) West Bank outside of Rarig Art Center, 3.) St. Paul campus outside the St. Paul Student Center.


A Very Dedicated HACC Chairman

Photo by John Hoff

Peter Teachout walked through the neighborhood, today, sometimes carrying his youngest child, McKenna. He was...

...distributing fliers to let folks know about the big neighborhood get-together on September 25, 6-9 PM, Fairview Park.

Peter was willing to go by himself, and I said THAT IS INSANE. Peter said he's not going to live "like I'm in Beruit," that he's "an American citizen" and he experts "to be able to walk the streets in my neighborhood" and that's just what he's going to do, with his baby along.

I had expected--well, OK, I had HOPED the protests surrounding RNC 2008 would be hitting the fan by now, and hitting early. The sight of a banner welcoming the Virginia and Virgin Islands delegation to the Ramada in Stadium the very heart of campus...was a major downer. Where were the protesters? Where were all my friends? I wasn't going to stand there and protest MYSELF, I needed at least one other person with me.

Well, since the excitement hasn't kicked off quite yet--I have faith it will, though, just not early enough to suit me--I told Peter I'd be able to spend some time with him, after all, doing the flier thing. Since he was CRAZY ENOUGH TO DO IT BY HIMSELF.

"I'm not by myself," he laughed. "I've got McKenna to protect me."

The deal was I drove, he walked, and soon enough he figured it was better to just put McKenna in my car. Good thing I spent $3 vacuuming up every speck of window glass from that recent vandalism incident, figuring my own son would be sitting on the seat.

An ice cream man went by. I bought McKenna a push-up ice cream bar, raspberry flavored. Hard to tell if she was eating it or wrestling it to submission.

Peter went all over the neighborhood, passing out fliers, talking to people in the neighborhood. A few times we called 311; once when we found a duplex with the door kicked in, another time I called on a severely overgrown lawn. I saw a car near "the Towers" which looked like it had been totalled in a hit-and-run while parked. I figured I'd just wait several days on that, given my stance on "predatory and abusive towing" on my other blog,

McKenna is just starting to talk, and she seems to imitate the words "big people" are saying. I know I heard her say "Flier." I kept telling her, "Daddy is passing out fliers. Fliers."

And she repeated: "Fmmiers."

Peter is a very dedicated Chairman. And the work which needs to be done never ends. But that doesn't mean it can't be set aside, sometimes. Word of something important comes in mid-blog.

More on that in the next post.

Price Drop Connected To Squatter Activity?

MLS image

Right after I left word with the real estate company about the squatter activity at 3011 6th St. N., the price took a steep drop on the MLS.

Coincidence? I THINK NOT!

(Do not click "Read More")

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Anti-Johnny REVEALED!!!!! (Um, I Think)

Fair comment and criticism

So today, reading the Anti-Johnny blog I think I figured out the identity of my semi-anonymous un-fan...

Again, I say I *think* I figured it out. I'm not 100 % certain. I shouldn't be interested in this too much...everybody who is habitually out in the public eye needs a harsh critic to keep one's head on straight, and the identity of the Anti-Johnny is more interesting to me than to my readers, who want NORTH SIDE topics...but the identity of this critic may go back to the very conception of this blog, as outlined in the "brief history" of some blogs in my previous post.

Born in fiery blog discussion about T.J. Waconia

This blog was, in effect, born on a discussion thread at Behind The Mortgage Dot Com...a discussion thread about mortgage fraudsters T.J. Waconia which grew so hot, it radiated a strange other worldly Tron-like energy and transformed me into Johnny Northside, blessed and cursed with special blogging powers to help transform my adopted home planet--er, neighborhood--of North Minneapolis.

Jim Watkins is a guy down in Texas--but originally from Minnesota, a place he has told me he loathes with all his heart--who is the true blue friend-to-the end of one Thomas Balko, a principal with the infamous T.J. Waconia. (The other is Jon Helgason, and one assumes "TJ" stands for "Tom" and "Jon.") T.J. Waconia was the subject of a huge mortgage fraud investigation which ultimately resulted in plea bargains.

This history is long, messy, and one of those "inside baseball" things not terribly interesting to the average person. Suffice to say, Watkins worked for Tom Balko at one time, but ultimately decided to go to Texas and do his own thing in real estate. Watkins--though an ardent public defender of T.J. Waconia--is apparently NOT implicated in any criminal wrongdoing and has consistently held a position that the prosecution of T.J. Waconia is pretty much all political.

Watkins--who claims or claimed to be a "real estate mentor" but recently had a terrible run of luck with at least one of his own properties in the current "mortgage meltdown"--is often accused (not without justification) of not commenting under his own name.

Enemies, friends, oops, enemies again

Though Jim Watkins and I started out as adversaries on the issue of T.J. Waconia, our exchange of views grew quite respectful and friendly--though I always kept Watkins at arm's length. I could tell he WANTED something, and that "something" usually appeared to be trying to convince me to turn from ardent critic to converted defender of T.J. Waconia. Watkins tried in many ways to paint the victims of T.J. Waconia as being involved in their own shady dealings and therefore not "victims" at all.

If you click here and read the comments for the article, written by Jim himself, you can see where Jim called me his "friend" and directed folks to this blog.

My so-called "friend" Jim Watkins has indeed made a case to my satisfaction that the victims are not all poor little innocent lambs, but I've never considered his mediocre case to be worth the effort it took to make, unless you're the true blue friend of Thomas Balko, which Watkins proclaims himself to be. His so-called "case" against the T.J. Waconia victims is rather like the case a criminal defense lawyer might make by trying to point out how a rape victim was wearing a short skirt and walking alone at night. In fact, it's very much like that case: Watkins is always accusing one of the most vocal victims of being (how shall I put it?) sexually promiscous.

To be fair, the victims are pretty good at slinging the same exact kind of dirt and innuendo in the direction of Tom Balko's (former? estranged?) spouse. Any discussion about T.J. Waconia which happens in a chat room becomes pretty much a bare-knuckle bloody affairs.

I have advocated for moderation in these discussions. For example, it's not right to say harsh things about little children, no matter who their parents might be.

At one point, Watkins (seriously) suggested I should help him write a book exposing the "truth" about TJ Waconia. I said, in so many words, that project would be a big waste of my time. At another point, Watkins tried to offer me a really fine deadbolt lock for the front door of my house. Like, oh, yeah, I'd be happy to accept a LOCK to my DOOR from a STRANGER I know mostly via THE INTERNET.

Ultimately, Watkins and I had a falling out--on the pages of this very blog, though some of it was by email--over the topic of (this is so silly and tedious) whether his girlfriend really existed and whether it was respectful for me to tell him to provide a picture of this (alleged) girlfriend, to show whether she really existed and so I might learn what she looked like, whether she was "hot."

Click here and also here to read some of the Watkins-influenced posts, a "new sign for North Minneapolis" and Jim's rather interesting "bullets in the stucco" story of getting shot at in North Minneapolis.

It was my feeling--and still is--the "falling out" with my "new buddy" Watkins was contrived. Watkins thought he could get more psychological leverage by being my "friend," then falling out with me, and then hoping I would want to "win him back." And, actually, I find Watkins a fascinating, intense, and intelligent character. I've said I'd be glad to have lunch with him when he's up in the Twin Cities to (in effect) see his friend Tom Balko go up the river.

But I'm useless to Watkins for one reason: I see the T.J. Waconia principals as guilty and deserving of punishment, and it's apparent to Watkins that while whatever "facts" he presents will be given a fair hearing, I'm not going to change my stance. I'm throwing my lot in with the "decent people" of the neighborhood, not the scammers and flippers. (Though it appears both me and Jim Watkins loathe crack heads and prostitutes ruining neighborhoods)

Let the punishment fit the crime

It should be noted Jim Watkins HAS influenced my opinions, but I'm not sure if it was in a way Watkins intended or hoped. I have advocated for a "let the punishment fit the crime" sentence for the T.J. Waconia principals. Force them to live in North Minneapolis in one of their own houses, and make themselves useful to the neighborhood, I say.

Frankly, I figured Watkins would be more enthusiastic about this particular posting and my rather consistent promotion of the idea. Watkins never showed any enthusiasm for the idea, however. In fact, I think it may have contributed to the (contrived?) "falling out." He wants his T.J. Waconia friends to receive NO PUNISHMENT and has strongly advocated that position and doesn't appear to like my advocacy of "let the punishment fit the crime."

What is the case for Jim Watkins being the Anti-Johnny?

At first I thought the Anti-Johnny was the same person who argued with me on a comment thread over "the article of clothing I have vowed not to mention again." But in light of contrary opinion, I compared one to the other and Different people.

True, the Anti-Johnny appeared and seized on the "prostitute's distinctive article of clothing" discussion, leading me to conclude it was the same person. However, Jim Watkins has certain stylistic writing quirks...odd, not correct, but expressive and consistent things he does with ellipses and capitalization, as well as sentence fragments. As an English Major and writer, I notice that kind of thing. And in his latest posts, Anti-Johnny is showing some Jim Watkins stylistic quirks, which are rather unique.

Secondly, Jim can't stay out of internet discussions, even if he can't appear as himself. Jim has been gone from the Johnny Northside/T.J. Waconia blog scene for a while...but I figure he can't stop reading and he can't stay away, which is why I suspect Jim of being the Anti-Johnny, because it's really time for Jim to appear again, even in some guise.

Third, the things said by Anti-Johnny are consistent with the real-estate based interests of Jim Watkins, who calls himself a "mentor" in real estate but, well, um...there was that whole deal- kinda-went-south episode, just recently. Yeah. Yeah.

Anyway, Anti-Johnny criticized my use of the phrase "plastic pipes" instead of "PVC," and my saying "title person" instead of "escrow officer." Anti-Johnny is particularly incensed over my (alleged but non-existent) claim of real estate expertise, which would logically be something of a sore point with Jim right now, given what he's gone through, personally, after styling himself a "mentor" in real estate in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

I think my suspicion is on solid footing: the Anti-Johnny appears to be none other than the most ardent defender of T.J. Waconia, one Jim Watkins, most recently of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He is angry because as his real estate dealings have gone South, mine have literally gone North. As his friend has been branded a villain, I have (according to the Anti-Johnny) cast myself as a hero, savior, even (and this is extreme) "God."

His most insistent criticism: I am only doing what I'm doing for the money.

Right, Anti-Johnny. Show me the dime I have made from doing all this blogging, so I can stoop over and scoop it up from the ground. I fight for North Minneapolis because I am the kind of person who loves a good fight for a good cause. I sold my house because I didn't want to stand in the way of progress and, yes, it was a chance to make a profit and get a better house...hopefully on the SAME EXACT BLOCK, so I can keep fighting for the eco-village and a better North Minneapolis.

An olive branch at Olive Garden?

I don't dislike Jim--no, not even believing he's the Anti-Johnny--but I think I really upset Jim when I added some comments to an article he wrote for the "Bigger Pockets" real estate blog.

My comments--meant as compliments about the article--publicly linked Jim Watkins to his T.J. Waconia friend, and this in a forum which Jim apparently considered his own little private reserve. Jim just about FLIPPED OUT over those comments linking him to T.J. Waconia on that blog. I have the emails where he flipped out. Jim does that. He flips out and spews ink, but when he does there are those special, unique things he does with ellipses, capitalization and sentence fragments.

I told Jim, hey, if it's a problem...have the "Bigger Pockets" webmaster remove the comments in question, since you're buddy-buddy with him and all that. Words to that effect. I mean...I have archived about a jillion emails that went back and forth between me and Jim, when we were sorta "friends" and Jim was suggesting I should help write a book defending T.J. Waconia and making a case for Thomas Balko being a political scapegoat.

Some folks may find it dodgy that I have engaged in conversation and correspondence with somebody so closely linked to the notorious entity of T.J. Waconia. But I was fascinated by that saga and--more so--it was interesting how a blogger could somehow have an IMPACT on the participants in the saga, even if it was just to make 'em mad. Tom Balko apparently kept up with my on-line comments and wondered what my "thing" was, why I had such an obsession with T.J. Waconia.

Yeah, I heard this through Jim. If Jim wanted something from me, I also wanted something from Jim: insight, inside info, details of the saga...even if I was promising not to share that stuff.

Honestly, I'm not sure, sometimes, why a particular topic seizes my interest and drags me in though a common theme is always realizing my ability to have an impact on the topic by ferreting out and exposing information.

This much I know: it would be incredibly interesting to have that lunch with Jim Watkins. I would select "Olive garden" because of its symbolism.

We are left to pick up the pieces

Entities like T.J. Waconia and Universal Mortgage and--this must be pointed out--a great number of other fraudsters and "little fish" who are seemingly being allowed to get away with fraud have made North Minneapolis what it is today: a post-apocalyptic land of boarded doors and windows, missing copper, desperate crack heads, advancing armies of slumlords and--this must ALSO be pointed out--visionary idealists (some already present for decades) who perceive the potential to remake North Minneapolis into something different, better, and GREENER than it is at present.

And what is the Anti-Johnny doing? He is offering a scathing critique of somebody who is trying to deal with the mess created by people like Thomas Balko, and doing it from behind a fascade of semi-anonymity.

And who is he? Well, I've given my unproven theory of who Anti-Johnny is. This much I'll say: he's a distraction and so I should avoid being distracted by him, because there are bigger fish to fry or--if you like that sort of thing (I sure do, Green Party member or not)--bigger frog legs to fricassee.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The MISADVENTURES of Johnny Northside

John Hoff With Frog

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then my head is surely going to expand until--poof!--it blows up in a splatter of bloody brains. It seems somebody has gone out and made a parody of my own blog.

The "Anti-Johnny" blog has some criticisms of me; some fair and some just lame. What's really too bad about the blog is the poster is not dedicated enough to keep pumping out content, though admittedly it's pretty hard to keep up with somebody as prolific as me. This month I've already topped my record for all-time number of posts, and the month ain't even over, baby.

So I'm going to address the criticisms here, and then I'm going to ignore this website, since its own webmaster has also seen fit to mostly ignore it after going to all the trouble of creating it and trying (unsuccessfully) to promote it.

Bing, Bang Boom (That'll Be Fifty Bucks)

1.) My intentions regarding the house at 3016 6th St. N. changed after I bought it. I was, yes, going to fix it up or tear it down. I certainly had no way of knowing if the guy offering to buy it on a handshake deal would come through. Since there was no lender or mortgage involved, what's yer beef?

As for why I haven't "bragged" about the transaction on my blog; I downloaded the pictures of the transaction to a computer at the University of Minnesota, and I've been out of town and quite busy. I wasn't able to get access to the computer with the images, and so other topics (where I did have convenient pictures) made their way to the top of the heap.

So I fell behind. I will blog about the transaction very soon, even if it's not THAT exciting.

Thank you for reminding me, Anti-Johnny.

2.) It's perfectly OK to call PVC pipes "plastic" to distinguish them from "copper." People know what is meant. As for calling the "Escrow Officer" a "title person," I've never claimed to be "savvy" about real estate. I got lucky with one transaction, quite by accident.

Besides, how do YOU know she's the "Escrow Officer?" Maybe some ASSISTANT Escrow Officer actually handled it. You really DON'T know.

3.) No, I don't tell people where I stay in St. Paul, though I've mentioned it's "near Frogtown" and I have a friend named Doug who recently had some old radiators stolen, and that's about as much as you'll get.

Dracula doesn't go around announcing the location of his coffin, either. I spend a great deal of time trying to drive crack heads off "my block," but I have to sleep some time. And when I sleep, I prefer if the whole world doesn't know where. So you can take a flying leap, Anti-Johnny. Some information you aren't getting until I'm good and ready to reveal it; like when I don't need it anymore.

And, yes, it is "my block." I have offers down on two houses in the area, and I've bought and sold a house there to the City of Minneapolis. Even you, Anti-Johnny, admit I'm doing "some" good things in the area, but you say I'm really only in it for the money.

Sorry to burst your cynical bubble, Anti-Johnny, but I'm really only in it for a decent home so I can have quality time with my son.

4.) Yeah, sometimes I drive a truck to make a little money and sometimes the cargo is alive; like the frog pictured above. (I was actually checking the condition of the cargo in the photo, to be humane) Transporting live cargo may make me a less-perfect member of the Green Party, but Greens are not required to be vegans. To criticize me on this basis is really reaching, unless you've never eaten a pork chop, worn leather, or used soap derived from animal fat your whole adult life.

My friends can testify that my truck rattles like a coin bank from all the beverage cans I won't remove until I am able to recycle them properly. I try to be as Green as I can, but I also need to pay my bills. I "inherited" the trucking job from my little brother; and I was hired on the basis of a sparkly clean driving record and the fact the company trusts me with blank checks and large amounts of cash.

I'm proud of that humble job as a commercial driver and my ability to keep that large diesel-powered beast between the appropriate lines of the road--day after day, state after state, THOUSANDS OF MILES--without smashing into something and breaking wide open like a big white egg, so you can take that sarcastic nomination for Humanitarian of the Year and give it to the crack heads and prostitutes who you waste too many keystrokes defending, Anti-Johnny.

(Check out recent posts for some great pictures of a flaming stolen car crashed into a person's home, and blatant crack-dealing on the 3000 block of 6th St. N. before you go singing Kumbuya with a bunch of (expletive)heads.)

5.) The funniest part of the misadventures blog is how the blogger says hey, come on, submit your comments. And nobody has commented. As of this moment, NOBODY HAS COMMENTED. The blogger sent out emails to various folks inviting them to the blog and one of my friends said hey, it's an AOL email account. Is this person like 100 years old?

Ironically, the misadventures blog was initiated on a stated presumption that I don't give people a fair chance to comment on THIS blog. But the undeniable record shows the guy who started the blog was given every chance to comment on this blog: he just couldn't hold his own in a debate about Contessa the Prostitute and her ubiquitous pink pants, so like a petulant schoolboy, he took his virtual ball and walked off the playing field, sulking.

Those rare times when I have not approved a comment, I have posted my own comment to make the record about non-approval of the comment.

A Brief Family Tree Of Certain Blogs

I think it would be good to document how one blog leads to another, since I'm noticing a rather interesting pattern and I think it would be good to note it for the historical record.

In the beginning, there was Behind The Mortgage Dot Com, and one day there was a fiery debate on one of the chat threads about the subject of T.J. Waconia and their fraudulent activities. It was on Behind The Mortgage that I first used the name "Johnny Northside."

It was a whim. A name used in on a semi-anonymous thread. At the time, I was obsessed with mortgage fraud because I was operating under a theory I might be able to buy some of these houses as "damaged goods" and get a great deal.

Some of the individuals on that Behind The Mortgage thread had more to say about T.J. Waconia and felt the conversation had been prematurely cut off, and so they went out and started the T.J. Waconia Victims Blog. This blog still exists, but appears to have fallen victim to a rather common blogging trend: excitement and promise, followed by a lack of updated content, and then...

Dormant state. It may not be death, but it's pretty close.

Reacting to the T.J. Waconia Victims Blog, a guy named Jim Watkins started his own blog to put forward what he felt was "the truth" about T.J. Waconia. His blog didn't last very long before he took it down for reasons I still can't figure out...but my theory is extending and heating up the discussion wasn't HELPING the principals in T.J. Waconia, one of which was Watkins' childhood friend, Thomas Balko, so Jim Watkins beat a hasty retreat.

Watkins did, however, manage to air his side in an article in the Minneapolis Mirror, trying to make the case T.J. Waconia was some kind of political scapegoat. My position has always been an amalgamation, compromise and conglomerate of the various sides: yes, the indictment was political and yes, T.J. Waconia's principals are dirty as (expletive).

During the "early days of Johnny Northside," I was equally interested in a company called Universal Mortgage. In fact, I managed to dig up information about the fact they were licensed in other states, and had an office in Arizona, and I put that info into the hands of Robert Anglen at the Arizona Republic, who blogged about Universal Mortgage's connections to Arizona.

What's It All Mean? Where's It All Going?

This latest bastard child of a blog, the Anti-Johnny blog, simply shows how intense these issues are on the North Side. I mean, really, what ARE we going to do about the prostitutes and crackheads, besides push them over to the next block? Who benefits and who loses from all this "revitalization?"

And if Contessa's infamous pink pants could talk, what WOULD they say and who dares to speak for the pants? (Not me, baby, not me!)

Fare thee well, Anti-Johnny blog. You were a brief amusement, but amusing none the less!

This House Needs A Good Home

Photos by John Hoff

Not content with merely sending me pictures and having me blog about the house, today Connie Nompelis convinced me to go on a tour of 2123 6th St. N., for sale for a mere $12,900. And Connie agreed the seller would probably settle for $9,500....

First of all, I'm amazed how much ROOM it has. The basement is huge. The second floor is huge. And then...there's a top floor above the top floor. It has--oh my word--an antique claw foot bathtub.

OK, technically I'm not actually excited about that...I only get excited vicariously, knowing other people--including hot women--get excited about antique claw foot bathtubs.

The wood flooring on the ground floor is in great shape. Connie pointed out something...what was it called? A foursquare ceiling? Something like that.

"Why did they paint that over?" she groaned. I imagine Connie utters that phrase pretty regularly in North Minneapolis. A tanker car of Zip Strip would do a world of good for neighborhood revitalization, here on the North Side.

This house is also on some kind of demolition list. Connie wanted to show me the house and convince me it should NOT be demolished; that it was a piece of valuable housing stock which should be saved, instead.

Admittedly, the house needs a lot of fixes. The entire front porch needs to come off, and I'm afraid that rotten old porch probably gives a bad impression of what is in the house. And there are, yes, water damage issues.

But should this house be torn down? My verdict...and I am loathe to oppose city/county forces, if the house is on some demolition list...IS STILL NO WAY. This is a valuable piece of housing stock which should be saved. There is no evidence of squatting, gang activity, drug activity...well, OK, we found one condom on the second floor. And it was so old I mistook it for some rare fungus for which I would receive botanical glory for its discovery, until I figured out what it was.

SAVE THIS HOUSE. Don't make me sit in front of a bulldozer. I'm getting too old for that kind of stuff, and I just washed my jeans after changing those two slashed tires.

(Our trip to the 2100 block was useful in another way: I called 311 on a house with a broke-in basement window, graffiti on the south wall, and weeds 1 foot high. The lady next door said it takes a month to get graffiti painted over. All the more reason, I say, to call sooner rather than later)

Diogenes Searched For An Honest Man (He Should Have Looked At Slumberland)

Diogenes The Cynic

This happened a few weeks ago, but I'm trying to catch up on my blogging before it's time to be "gone fishing" and get my fair share of abuse at the demonstrations for the Republican National Convention...

I was helping a person from Hawthorne--who shall remain nameless to protect their professional reputation--pick up some furniture at Slumberland. My 1984 Vandura van, a.k.a. "The Shaggin' Wagon," is pretty good for hauling cargo, especially couches on which make out sessions are plotted, contemplated and/or hoped for. me and this anonymous person were at the Slumberland location near Little Canada, picking up a couch--which is just a really well-endowed love seat, if you think about it--when we needed to move around some cargo to accommodate the aforementioned Sofa Of Love. (SOL)

"Here, (Blank)," I said. "Hang on to my extremely valuable laptop computer." And I handed (Blank) my spanking new $1,200 iBook, in its black carrying case. (Which is recycled from my previous laptop, because I'm green that way)

We drove back with the couch and talked about all kinds of fun, trippy stuff and some serious topics, too...messy mortgages, of course, a favorite subject...and it wasn't really until late that night when I suddenly had a need for my laptop and I wasn't in my van. It wasn't ANYWHERE in my van, and I spent a while tearing stuff apart.

Yeah, so there was a lot of freaking out. And late at night it's not like you can call anybody, except the voice mail of the (unnamed) buddy to say, "Remember when I told you to hold my extremely valuable computer? Remember THAT MOMENT? Um, what did you do right after THAT?"

Set it down on the loading dock, as it turned out. But--praise God--a manager found it, took charge, and when both of us called Slumberland in the morning, it was waiting for us.

I thanked them, profusely. I asked to meet the manager and shake his hand. I promised to blog about it and include a link to their website,

And though it took me a while, here I am, fulfilling my promise. I would have forgiven my friend, of course, but I'm really glad I don't live in that alternate universe where my laptop was never seen again.

So glad am I of the laptop's recovery that I composed a poem.


Diogenes the Cynic searched for an honest man/ Really, truly, he should have looked at Slumberland/ There's only one caveat to temper my joy/ Don't entrust your laptop to an "herban cowboy."

Too Long A Wait For A Short Sale (3116/3118 6th St. N.)

Photo by John Hoff

So I put an offer down on 3116/3118 6th St. N., and it was a different situation than what I'm used to, a "short sale" situation...

In Debt Up To The Eyeballs

So first it took about a week for the owner of the house, Keith Dawson, to get his "paperwork" together for the bank. There are two steps to a short sale, or so it is explained to me. First the so-called "owner" of the house--in debt up to his/her eyeballs--has to be willing to make the sale. Then the real owner of the house--the bank which made a bunch of bad loans to somebody whose dreams were bigger than their capabilities--has to be willing, as well, to go through with the proposed deal.

Let me say something about Keith Dawson, would-be rental property tycoon. WORD ON THE STREET is Keith Dawson ran for a board position with the Hawthorne Area Community Council, speaking well (of course) of his intentions, commitment, and experience. He got that board position. And then he proceeded to hardly ever show up. That's Keith Dawson, current owner of 3116/3118 6th St. N.

Who Suffers? Tenants

In fact, Kieth (apparently) didn't have the decency to tell his tenants he was unable to pay his mortgage and was trying to bring about a short sale. The tenants found that out from me, my real estate agent Juley Viger, Jake and Gabe of 612 Authentic, (who were tagging along, as usual, making their documentary) and Peter Teachout, who came to assess the condition of the house with a contractor's eye.

So, yeah, the tenants found out from about the foreclosure situation and how things were NOT ENTIRELY in the hands of their landlord--Keith Dawson--who had made them various promises and assurances. They were not happy people. The folks downstairs have a baby. The name of the baby is Steve, FYI.

There is no longer an upstairs tenant. He was supposedly given "good and valuable consideration" to leave. I saw the lease termination document. It seemed pretty vague on the details of what this "good and valuable consideration" was.

I wonder what that man really got?

A Suggested Policy Tweak

It seems to me tenants are always finding themselves in this situation. Sometimes the property in question doesn't have a rental license, but it sure as (expletive) still has tenants; whether the owner tells his bank about the presence of the tenants (and that stream of revenue) or not.

One simple policy tweak could do a world of good: a letter addressed to the "occupant" of the house in question should inform that person of the situation with the mortgage. It's clearly not enough to send letters to the owner of the house, wherever he might be. (Quite possibly New Hope, Minnesota, in the case of Keith Dawson)

The current mortgage crisis shows one thing very plainly: owners lie to their tenants in order to secure a stream of rent money. Or, at the very least, owners avoid telling their tenants all the facts. So somebody else needs to tell the tenants how their residence is being bought and sold right out from under them like a fat hog at the state fair.

Banks Need To Wake Up, Smell The Coffee

The seller's real estate agent, Vee Xayavong, was rather apologetic, but told me it would take 30-60 days to get an answer from the bank about whether they would sell the house at the price I offered. This is not even a guarantee of a "yes," but merely an ANSWER.

I'll say this about Vee Xayavong, first of all: the man works hard, is polite, and answers emails quite promptly. I have no criticism of him. As for the bank, however:

ARE YOU CRAZY? In this market, you expect me to wait around 30-60 days while you figure out your answer? There are 10 buyers to every one property, last I heard, or possibly 13 buyers to every one property. I am a buyer and I've got an offer on the table in front of you. And you think I'll wait 30-60 days for your answer? Why? Is the stack too large and I'm near the bottom? HIRE MORE PEOPLE. This is MONEY we're talking about, here, and the money is walking BYE BYE because you can't move fast enough.

These kind of clumsy, impersonal business practices have produced the current mortgage crisis. Unfortunately, the banks haven't gotten any smarter. TOO LONG TO WAIT FOR A SHORT SALE, BABY.

Then Again, Maybe I Won't...

On second thought...well, maybe I'll make another offer and have it be "contingent" on 3116/3118 6th St. N. not being offered to me at a decent price. I really like the tree in the front yard.

I'm meeting Juley Viger at lunch time tomorrow. We'll see.

(Suspected) Drug Activity At 3020 6th Street N. (Photo Three)

Source of photo not revealed at this time

Here's the guy who licked something in the palm of his hand after he made whatever little transaction he was making in front of 3020 6th St. N. His smile told the tale: it was good (expletive).

No, not good like M&M candies are good, but reeeeeeeeally good.

(Do not click "Read More")

(Suspected) Drug Activity At 3020 6th Street N. (Photo Two)

Source of photo not revealed at this time

Here is a photo and a close-up of the transaction which happened after Exposed Breast Woman (now on the far right) emerged from the red truck. Note object gripped in the stripe-shirted dude's left hand. It's not apparent in the photo, but when watching the video one can see this is a plastic baggie containing a white or yellowish-white substance.

3020 6th St. N. is involved in the transaction because one of the participants in this transaction (not here pictured) walked into that fact, she walked in right after a police car drove by, and she was careful to take a brown paper bag with her.

(Do not click "Read More)

(Suspected) Drug Activity At 3020 6th Street N. (Photo One)

Source of photo not revealed at this time

I'm going to begin posting pictures of what appears to be drug and prostitution activity associated with 3020 6th Street North until the police and politicians finally DO SOMETHING about this blatant crack house in the heart of the multi-jillion dollar "eco-village" project...

How will those piles of tax dollars be well spent if a crack house is allowed to be smack dab in the middle of eco-topia and mess it up? Yes, there are crack houses "all over" North Minneapolis--as a police officer cynically pointed out to me yesterday, while taking a report about my two slashed tires and a broken window, when I brought up 3020 6th St. N. and said we could really use more police attention paid to that particular address.

Yes, THERE ARE CRACK HOUSES ALL OVER NORTH MINNEAPOLIS but this one is sitting in the middle of a multi-million dollar revitalization project which is supposed to be one of the keys to turning the whole area around. So why is it allowed to continue to thrive and do business openly?

I have some surveillance photos recently released to me--the source of these photos WILL NOT be revealed--and more surveillance photos will follow. I will say this much: the photos are actually stills from videotapes. The videotapes are in the hands of the police.

Exposing what is happening at 3020 6th St. N. and demanding attention has become increasingly urgent. In the last day, I can see the (apparent) dealers going up to the door of 3020 6th St. N. now appear to be 15 or 16 years old.

Yes, the police did something...they did it about a month ago, when there were a handful of arrests at the property for keeping a disorderly house, and one for drug paraphernalia. (That would be Contessa, whose own landlord calls her a prostitute, and whose dealings out in the street right in front of little children are painfully obvious, obvious enough that a truck driver lost his job for hanging out with Contessa while in possession of a company vehicle) But this hasn't stopped the (suspected) drug activity at the house. The activity slowed down for a while--there were changes, modifications, what seemed to be security precautions--but now the activity is going full bore once again and, for the first time, minors appear to be involved.

On the basis of those relatively-recent arrests, certain activities at 3020 6th St. N. can reasonably be said to be "suspected drug activity." Persons coming to the house for the space of a few minutes, then walking outside while gripping their hand to the crotch of their pants can certainly be said to be involved with SUSPECTED DRUG DEALS. Persons getting into cars after a few minutes in the house and looking eagerly at the slightly-yellow contents of small plastic baggies are SUSPECTED DRUG DEALS. So pictures of these SUSPECTED DRUG DEALINGS at 3020 6th Street North will be posted here until the police and politicians DO SOMETHING.

A crack house is allowed to thrive, even in the heart of the multi-million dollar eco-village revitalization project. That is the reality in North Minneapolis. The only way to change that reality is to expose it and demand police attention to the problem, not to hide behind the "four talking points" of how great North Minneapolis is because it has, oh my word, (EXPLETIVE) PARKS FOR RECREATION.

So what's going on in this picture: the woman on the left emerged from the truck with one of her breasts exposed and hanging out, paying no attention to her state of undress, but seemingly upset with the other persons she was with, snapping at them. The bag gripped in her hand seemed very important. It changed hands a few times. In fact, after a police car drove right by, la-dee-da, one time, and did not return...the woman in the middle got out of the truck with the bag and quickly walked into the front door of 3020 6th St. N.

Some kind of transaction took place out in the street, with the passenger of a silver car. A baggie was gripped in a hand, plainly visable. At one point, something pill-sized and held in the palm of the hand was LICKED. (In fact, the name of these photographic attachments, when they arrived, was "licker1" and "licker2.")

The lick produced a SMILE.

That's good (expletive).

If only these were images of rather unique and shocking events. However, this is the EVERY DAY REALITY on the 3000 block of 6th Street N., the heart of the eco-village, and the (apparent) drug transactions are spilling out of 3020 6th St. N.

By the time anybody calls 911, the transaction is over. By the time police arrive, the transaction is not only over, but another transaction has been initiated and completed, as well.

Yes, things are bad on other blocks. So send me the pictures and tell me the stories of the other blocks, and that stuff will end up on, as well.

We are not small, weak, and unheard. The internet gives us a voice and the power to change our neighborhood, to take it back from crack heads and thugs.