Sunday, November 2, 2008

"Dudes In Moon Suits" Clean Up Ken's Metal Finishing

Photos By John Hoff

A few months ago I heard about the extensive and expensive chemical clean-up at Ken's Metal Finishing, Inc., 2333 Emerson Ave. N., which is in the Jordan Neighborhood. Here's a report from the government agency cleaning up the mess, click here. Since...

...Emerson Ave. N. is a border between Hawthorne and Jordan, if you measure from the middle of Emerson Ave., I suppose this Ken's Metal Finishing is about 25 feet away from Hawthorne.

As we say, with our Hawthorne gallows humor: Thank god it didn't happen in OUR neighborhood!

Shortly after I read about the clean-up in a news article, I happened past the place and I took some pictures. I just got around to putting them up on this blog, so anybody interested would at least have a kind of mental image of Ken's.

I wish I had a photo of the dudes in moon suits, though. Bummer.

Fare Thee Well, "Witch's Finger"

Photo By John Hoff

This dead, limbless tree was in the backyard of HNC Chairman Peter Teachout for years, but some months ago...

It was sawed down and reduced to firewood as part of a ReBuilding Together effort, which I blogged about earlier. I've stayed in touch with one of the volunteers, the very lovely Anne-Marie, and a few days ago I gave her a tour of the neighborhood as she looks for a good deal on a house. Anne-Marie was curious whether the improvements started to Peter's yard had been completed.

She pulled up in front of 3020 6th St. N. to park.

"Um, we shouldn't park here," I told her. "This is a very active crack house." She turned around and parked on the other side of the street. Much better.

We rang Peter Teachout's doorbell, but the family wasn't home, so we peaked over the back fence. Yup, the walkways were complete. And the dead, limbless tree was gone. Peter's next-door neighbor, Scott, said he called that tree "The Finger" but I always thought it looked more malevolent than that. I insisted on calling it "The Witch's Finger." Above is a photo I took while the tree was still standing.

The Teachouts also have an interesting "lighting tree" in their back yard, and that has not gone away. It's still there, and still very cool, click here.

Yes, MORE Stupid North Minneapolis Property Repairs (Duct Tape Does Not Always "Get 'Er Done")

Photo By John Hoff

This is the same property with all the venetian blind issues that I blogged about earlier. At some point, the same doofus who performed the worthless venetian blind installation (PROBABLY the same doofus) wanted to temporarily insulate the "sun porch" windows and...

...that person used plastic sheeting and duct tape secured to the window sills. Now, I know there are folks who think duct tape is a miracle cure-all for most home repair and improvement projects, but in this case please note what happened when somebody tried to "get 'er done."

Removing the duct tape removes the varnish on the window sills, too.

Great job, slumlord or downtrodden, down-on-their-luck tenant.

Somebody will have to varnish that stuff all over again because of YOUR STUPID DUCT TAPE.

Waiting For The End At 3119 4th St. N.

Photos By John Hoff

Supposedly, 3119 4th St. N. will meet its long-anticipated demise tomorrow, at the hands of a backhoe. Here are some scenes taken earlier in the week showing...

...the mood of demolition dudes "twiddling the sledge hammer" while reportedly waiting for JUST ONE MORE SIGNATURE.

From top to bottom: 1.) If you're going to "twiddle a sledgehammer" on your foot, steel-toed boots make it more comfortable. 2 and 3.) Note the lovely fall colors, the brown brick, the bright yellow of the bulldozer. To everything there is a season; a time to tear down stones and a time to gather stones together. Now is the season of demolition in the Eco Village. 4.) Smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, etc. removed from 3119 4th St. N. before demolition. Even when you're tearing down a three-story building; waste not, want not.

Tomorrow. Supposedly, "3119" will go down tomorrow. "Patty Cake" is chilling the champagne. We'll see if any of it gets consumed tomorrow.

Another Episode Of Stupid North Minneapolis Home Repairs! (Today, We Visit Exotic Venice, Where Venetian Blinds Were Invented!)

Photos By John Hoff

Here are some pictures I took in North Minneapolis of a "stupid property repair," these involving venetian blinds...

In the top photo, the brackets for the blind were already in place, but along comes Mr. Slumlord...well, his name was almost certainly Kevin T. Freeman...and he has a blind which is bigger than the brackets. What does he do? He just kind of jams one side of the blind into the bracket.

Then, perhaps, he muttered something like, "Good enough for renters."

In the bottom photo--which, yeah, I know the image is crap--he didn't bother with brackets at all...just screwed the blind directly to the window frame.

Bad slumlord. BAD BAD BAD!!!!!!!

Did all those generations of Venetian citizens toil away pushing boats through the streets, waiting for one of their own to invent the clever venetian blind...just so you, Kevin T. Freeman, could do...THIS?!!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"Graffiti Abatement Bridge" In The Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood

Photo By John Hoff

I used to find parking near this pedestrian bridge in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood quite a bit, and I must have made about a dozen 311 calls over graffiti as well performing some "volunteer graffiti abatement" efforts. The bridge...

...soon had so many "paint over" squares that I dubbed it "Graffiti Abatement Bridge," like (the rock star formerly known as) Prince's "Graffiti Bridge."

Also, through a 311 call I managed to get a street sign placed at one end of the bridge, and I asked for one at the other end, too. The road curves around there, with no street sign, yet there is a constant need to call in graffiti, vandalized vehicles, drunk and disorderly conduct. A street sign is needed, so the location can be quickly and correctly determined.

Yeah, that's what I told the 311 operator. It seems to have worked. But I feel like if I don't visit "Graffiti Abatement Bridge" every couple weeks, the taggers will get too far ahead.

One Small Step For The Eco-Village...

Photo By John Hoff

The strange green color of grass re-seeding mixture has never struck me as being earthly in origin...

Here is a picture taken near the former 415 31st Ave. N. which expresses my feelings in this regard. Note the tree which looks like a hand.

The house at 415 had a "close encounter" of the demolition kind. The house was once there, but now it has been...beamed up. Word is green aliens are planning some kind of "Eco Village," and "come in peace."

The 1029 Bar In Northeast Minneapolis

Photo By Tiffany C. Dow

I mentioned in a previous post how bras decorate the rafters in the 1029 bar in Northeast Minneapolis, which is a "cop bar." Here's an image taken by a former student who was with me the last time I stopped by there, Tiffany C. Dow.

(Do not click "Read More")

The "Pizza-Fied" Blood Mary (Invented At Broadway Pizza In The Hawthorne Neighborhood)

Photo By John Hoff

I don't know why it is when me, Jeff Skrenes, and Bryan Thao Worra get together we try to pioneer improvements on yer basic Bloody Mary, like I've blogged about before, but...

For some reason, we do.

The night before last, we gathered at Broadway Pizza, in one of the four corners of the square-shaped Hawthorne Neighborhood, after we helped Jeff Skrenes move from his old apartment as part of a flight from Upper Drug-O-Topia. (Click here for details) I was drinking a Virgin Bloody Mary, as I so often do, because law school taught me to be ever-so-prudent.

Bryan Thao Worra asked for extra Tabasco sauce in his Bloody Mary. The waitress simply plunked down a bottle in front of him.

Bryan doused his Bloody Mary in Tabasco and then...reached for the Parmesan cheese, which he sprinkled on the top of his drink.

Were Your Taste Buds Shot Off In The War?

Jeff, who is actually quite a great cook and incredibly experimental with cuisine, is still shocked by how far Bryan and I are willing to push our taste buds: ant larvae, bamboo caterpillars, dried squid are things we'll eat without hesitation. Today, when we were moving stuff out of Jeff's old apartment, and it was time for breakfast, I warmed up some of Jeff's baked chicken with dried plums, and drowned the already-herbified chicken in Mrs. Dash, Jeff cried out, "Were your tastebuds shot off in the war?"

Well, sort of. Don't get me going about the guy from Louisiana who taught me how to kill hunger pains in Army Basic drinking increasingly large, addictive doses of Tabasco sauce, right out of the bottle. I've still been known to use this trick while working as a commercial truck driver. It sure does keep a person WAKEY WAKEY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bloody Mary Pizza Logic

In any case, Bryan's modifications to his Bloody Mary freaked Jeff out, predictably. Bryan shrugged and said a Bloody Mary is vegetables, hot sauce,'s like a liquid pizza, already. Why not add some cheese on the top?

I said to Bryan: Brilliant!!!!! I'm getting my camera. Bryan, you need to do that again for my camera. You invented it, but I'm going to be the guy who publicizes it. Wait here.

And when I came back, Bryan had sucked up the top layer of his Bloody Mary, and was ready to add more cheese.

The next logical step: throwing a few shots of vodka on top of a plain cheese and Tabasco pizza, and calling it a "Bloody Mary Pizza."

My Son Alex Is Also A Culinary Pioneer

Ever since he was little, my son Alex has preferred his food plain, almost spartan. Simple "butter noodles" are one of his favorite entrees, for example. He doesn't like ketchup on most things, except fries. He doesn't like "minty things," avoiding mint the way some Midwestern folks of Scandinavian heritage avoid serious spices.

But since my son turned 11, his amazing and developed personality is always throwing me a curve ball during every-other-weekend visitation. Today, eating scrambled eggs at Jeff's new apartment, Alex asked for maple syrup to put on the scrambled eggs.

I put a little on the top, drizzling it.

"More," he said.

Give the kid time, I thought. One day, he'll be chowing down on ant larvae.

Jeff Skrenes Flees From Upper Drug-O-Topia

Photo By John Hoff

Ah, the stuff our intrepid Hawthorne Housing Director endures. And, since I help him move his furniture, I endure it with him...

Jeff used to have a pretty decent apartment in St. Paul, but he left it for an apartment in the Hawthorne nieghborhood at 2218 Lyndale Ave. N, closer to our daily struggles and, yes, victories.

Of course, the new apartment wasn't such a bad deal. Jeff got more square footage, and a much prettier residence for less money. There was only one problem: apparent drug trafficking.

Barely a month after Jeff moved--and both myself and Bryan Thao Worra helped him with the process--Jeff woke up one morning to see members of the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department raiding the small detached garage (with mysterious skylights) pictured above, here photographed from Jeff's second-story window.

I have to give myself a bit of credit, here. I sort of called it. The first time I met Jeff's neighbors, including the sloppy, bearded guy in the basement who was thrilled to get Jeff's worthless hide-a-bed, I told Jeff, "They remind me of tweakers."

"What are tweakers?" Jeff asked; dear sweet Jeff, the adopted son of a bishop who grew up in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan, collecting baseball cards and working on a farm.

"Meth users," I clarified. "They have that cranked-up, tweaked-out, meth head aura."

Jeff figured they were "chronic inebriates" and "potheads," but probably nothing worse. Until, that is to say, a month later when he woke up and thought he was in some kind of "alternate universe," with what appeared to be a SWAT team crawling all over the little garage.

Figuring he better find out what was up--and it was best to find out from the police--Jeff put on some decent clothes--but not too decent, not like a drug kingpin would wear--and approached the police who were tearing apart the garage.

The police wouldn't give Jeff much information, but advised Jeff NOT to rent at this particular residence, for his own good. That was all Jeff needed to hear. This was in early September. Jeff started looking for a new apartment, immediately. Jeff let his landlord (Jerome Toby Murschel) know that the damage deposit should be applied toward the final month's rent.

Jeff figured otherwise Jerome--perhaps desperate to pay legal bills--would just walk off with his damage deposit.

The chronic inebriates who always hung around in the yard having bonfires, as well as their charming pit bull, were bemused by the situation. Nobody would give Jeff a straight story about what the police had found during the raid, but one night one of the drunkards lamented "the tragedy" which had taken place. Just recently, one said, "Hey, it's not like we use enough pot for them to RAID US, geez!"

I told Jeff this was probably a "cover story." I was still betting on meth, not pot. Jeff said the guy wasn't bright enough to concoct a "cover story" and deliver it so realistically. I had my doubts.

A blonde woman with stringy, dirty blonde hair who often came for the late-night beers-n-bonfires by told Jeff, "I don't blame you for leaving," and the others shot her a dirty look.

Today, Jeff actually settled up with Jerome, even paying him for the single day of November 1, since moving out carried over an extra day of the first month. Jerome stayed inside his apartment and pouted like a child, refusing to come out and take the check from Jeff. So one of the chronic inebriates had to hand-deliver the check to Jerome. Jeff made it clear that if Jerome didn't want the check, Jeff wasn't going to "piss away" the money. Jerome took the check, via the third party.

So Jeff is free of the second story apartment--which, really, was quite nice despite the people who hung around downstairs--the tawny brown pit bull, the chronic inebriates and their bonfires, where they ALWAYS burned plastic bottles, an unhealthy practice.

One of the inebriates was profusely thankful for Jeff's old bike rack, since he is one of those metal scrappers who comb our neighborhood like Jawas on the planet Tatooine. I told Jeff, "The minute you're free of that place, call me. It's a great story. I've been dying to blog about it."

Jeff called me a few hours ago. So this is the story of Jeff's flight from Upper Drug-O-Topia.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Little Neighborhood That Could

Constance told me about a new neighborhood blog; "the little neighborhood that could." It looks like a promising new effort. Click here to check it out.

(Do not click "Read More")

She Lives To Flip Again photo

Word comes from Jeanie Hoholik's blog that the injured flipper I wrote about earlier here (click) and also here (click) is recovering well, and--this news is almost as good--she has that "T.J. Waconia house" back on the market, after jumping through some relatively minor bureaucratic hoops.

(Do not click "Read More")

3119 4th St. N. Waits For The Bulldozer

Photo By John Hoff

On Thursday, we thought this place was going down. The asbestos had been removed. Two guys showed up with a backhoe, and...

I chatted with them. One was young, and while he waited, he twiddled a sledgehammer instead of his thumbs. There was some last minute minor salvage: fire extinguishers and smoke detectors were removed, and the sledge-twiddler grinned widely as he scored a new, never-opened kitchen cutlery set. I figured he'd bring it home to his young wife, or perhaps his mother. He really didn't look like the kind of guy who gets excited, himself, about new kitchen utensils.

Twiddling A Sledge Hammer

The supervisor told me they were waiting for one signature out of the 14 necessary sign-offs: the guy from the "heritage preservation" office. Something like that. The supervisor was waiting on a phone call that would confirm the signature was on the paperwork, and then demolition could proceed.

I thought how frustrating it must be for a guy with a backhoe to wait on a crummy piece of paper. He's an action guy. Not a paper-pusher. The young guy with the new knife set didn't seem to care; he appeared to be paid by the hour. He walked around, twiddling his sledgehammer. You could see his eagerness to let loose on something, but he had good discipline, and held back.

Tomorrow And Tomorrow And...RATS!!!

So, at first, it was looking like Thursday evening. Then I was told there wasn't enough daylight left, so it would be the next day, Friday. But word came from Gabe of 612 Authentic that demolition had been put off until Monday. "Patty Cake" who lives next door had already purchased champagne. Not the fake stuff, either, but REAL champagne.

I asked her to get some fake stuff. Even if nobody will persecute me for it, I will not violate an ordinance against drinking in public. "Patty Cake" said she's buy some fake champagne at the "used food store." I totally have to blog about that place.

As eager as she was to see 3119 reduced to a patch of newly-seeded soil, Patty had another concern: RATS!!! She was making calls to seek assurance the building had been "baited" beforehand, which is apparently a standard procedure with demolition. If you don't kill the rats in the building, they will flee to neighboring properties; in this case, Patty Cake's nice little house with the cowboy decorative motif. I imagine a furry, moving that movie "Willard" about the guy and all his rats.

So we wait. We wait for Monday, and we chill the champagne, and somewhere HNC Housing Director Jeff Skrenes apparently has another Cuban cigar stashed away. Rumor is that 400 31st Ave. N. will go down soon, too, but there is apparently a need for asbestos abatement at that property, as well. Jake and Gabe plan to be at the demolition with their camera, to see the demise of the building I've dubbed "Mold-O-Topia."

Tales From The Demolition Crew

It turns out the guy with the contract for demolishing 3119 4th St. N. knocked down the building which used to be next door, several yeas ago. He said that while he was demolishing THAT building, the police were launching a raid on 3119 4th St. N. This happened TWICE. He remembered it, vividly.

"This place was full of problems and misery, from its very beginning," I told him. "Apparently, there was even COCKFIGHTING here."

I should have added this: bring the Ghostbuster crew with you, gentlemen. Take the negative energy aura out with the foundation, if possible. Leave no shadows and curses behind to begin a whole new cycle of misery and evil.

This is the Eco-Village, and we are beginning anew.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Re-Education Of Miss D. (Sometimes In North Minneapolis)

Self-Portrait, Tiffany Dow

So I used to be a teaching assistant at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Comm, and in my very first class was a bright, amazing student named Tiffany C. Dow...

She later went on to get a Masters Degree of Journalism in Wales, and spent time in Egypt and Serbia. Tiffany was arrested by the Serbian police for photographing something, and managed to get out of the arrest...WITH HER PICTURES. Out of all the students in that particular class, Tiffany managed to get her final project the Star Tribune, no less! It was about Hmong funeral rituals. Several weeks ago I was having drinks with Bryan Thao Worra, and--expert on all things Hmong--he actually remembered the article in question and thought it was pretty decent.

"That was YOUR student?" he said, his eyebrows raised.

"My student?" I said. "My story idea, baby. I pointed her that way. But she totally ran with it."

So, yeah, sometimes you get an amazing (certainly not PERFECT) student and it's like...holy cow.

How am I supposed to guide this one? How am I supposed to point this one where his/her journalistic talents will be put to the best possible use, yet not see him/her killed in a war zone because--being theoretically older and wiser--you can look in their eyes and see it: the addiction to excitement, adventure... the relentlessly curious nature we try so hard to instill in journalism students, but with some of have to explain the old adage about how curiosity killed the cat.

Me and the instructor from the class have followed Tiffany's progress, and served as her references from time to time.

Currently, Tiffany is substitute teaching while sending out resumes, trying to land a job in journalism, though a good writing job would do fine, thanks. A lot of Tiffany's teaching gigs happen in North Minneapolis. So a couple days ago...I gave her a tour of my neighborhood. And a lot came from that tour and our discussion beforehand...including the birth of a new blog, click here.

The J-School Meets The Blog-O-Sphere.

Back at the J-School, we were engaged in a vital academic discussion about how to deal with the rise of the blog-o-sphere and its impact on traditional forms of journalism. Though, at one time, all of these "traditional forms" were emerging forms, themselves, and the idea of journalism, itself, was also something that emerged. My take on things...and I believe my colleague, Dan Bernard, held a similar view...was that we need to tackle the blog-o-sphere head-on. Let's not tip-toe through the virtual tulips, but rather let's move forward boldly before emerging forms of media leave our traditional classes in the dust, and our students ill-prepared.

For myself, I was always quietly advocating for having the students blog about the news they see around them; with appropriate disclaimers at the top of their "classroom blogs," to avoid any (overblown and mostly overrated, in my opinion) liability issues for the J-School.

Sure, having students "recap" the news on their class project blogs was a worthwhile exercise, perhaps...FOR THE FIRST COUPLE WEEKS! But after that...let us have students blogging about real events, even if that meant just taking police reports and seeking out additional details, photographs, perhaps talking to some witnesses. Sure, have students do the hypothetical writing lab exercises we all know and love, but if you're going to have students doing blogs...have them seek out their own news instead of "recapping" other people's news.

Advice To Journalism Students: Blog Like Your Life Depends On It

There were a lot of classes after Tiffany's class, and other bright and amazing students. And, actually, sometimes it's the quiet students who end up being the stars. You never know. You try to do right by all of them.

Our journalism curriculum continued to evolve. And though I'm not currently working a TA job at the SJMC, there's not a doubt in my mind Murphy Hall is still dealing with the pressing issue of "How does traditional journalism--and therefore the School of Journalism and Mass Communication--deal with this vital, emerging form of media?"

So me and Tiffany--my former student who, with a Masters Degree, now wants to be referred to as my "colleague"--had lunch at Village Wok. I had the jellyfish, of course, and told Tiffany these little (expletives) are taking over the ocean due to global warming, and I consider it my "civic duty" to eat as many of them as possible, fried up with garlic and garnished with sesame seeds, with a side of rice.

We talked about her job search, her substitute is quite something, to be a teacher and realize one of your students has become a teacher, too, and now sees life from the other side of the faculty lounge. We talked about blogging.

I gave Tiffany the confidential low-down on some of the opportunities made available to me because of this blog, and my other blog, I explained how somebody who works with marketing contacted me, and probably would have given me a job except for the fact I was, good grief, OVERQUALIFIED. I talked about the personal contacts made, the doors opened, the impact my blogs appeared to be having. I told Tiffany about the job interview I have lined up for...well, 7:30 PM tonight. And I credit blogging for that opportunity, though much of it involves the actual hands-on activism I write about here.

I told Tiffany about my brief contact with Cairo-based NBC Producer Charlene Gubash during RNC 2008, and what Charlene said about the blog-o-sphere; how all the major networks are looking for the "one man show" blogger, trying to replicate it.

I told my former student, Tiffany, to blog. To blog like crazy. To grab this emerging form of media by the horns and catch a ride to the stars.

Yes, one must send out resumes, seek opportunities...but if you "pour out content" and "develop a following," the opportunities will start approaching you, plus you'll become "a player" in the very issues you're blogging about, simply by virtue of the fact you're blogging. Of course, there is the risk of offending the powerful...of being pulled "off mission," like my blogging spree on RNC 2008.

"But I loved those posts!" Tiffany protested, eating her "chicken almond ding," which I speculated was some kind of mistaken Chinese menu expression of "chicken almondine."

"Yeah, whatever," I replied. "I can get away with it because RNC 2008 was a major historical event, and I did keep tying things to North Minneapolis. But was it 'off mission?' Absolutely."

So there were risks: offending the powerful, who will force you to alter your content for the sake of self-preservation. Being pulled off-mission. The amount of time and effort required to "pour out content" and "develop a following." But the advice was the same: you want a job in journalism, kid? Start blogging. Carve out your own opportunities in this emerging, powerful media.

Maybe you'll get noticed and hired. Maybe you'll just keep the ink in your metaphorical pen from drying out.

The advice is the same, in either case: BLOG LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT.

A Field Trip To Frogtown And Beyond

So I guess our meal at Village Wok was like the lecture, and then it was time for a field trip.

After an excursion into the criminal underbelly of St. Paul's Frogtown--the details of which are still classified--we ended up in North Minneapolis, where I showed Tiffany "The Apartment Complex of Anarchy" and places where bulldozed houses once sat, but nothing is there anymore, except a sort of fake-o green carpet of reseeding mixture applied to the soil.

I spotted some gang graffiti on a boarded-up house--on the gray boards, not the house--and saw fit to abate it myself with some silver-gray spraypaint. Tiffany pulled out a notepad and started writing stuff down. Later I saw the name of the gang emerge in the first entry on her new blog, "The Education of Ms. D."

For myself, I will not use the names of gangs on this blog, because I do not want to give street gangs "cred," and I'm told the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a similar policy on its own websites. But I can see why the name of the particular gang fascinated Tiffany The Suburbanite. (She may call herself a "suburbanite" but, well, you can't really call Tiffany "naive," especially after a few years of being a substitute teacher in the inner city)

We checked out "my house," which Tiffany agreed had "potential." Then we ended up at the 1029 Bar in Northeast Minneapolis, which Tiffany thought looked really rough from the outside. She hesitated to go in. I laughed and said, "Tiffany, this is A COP BAR."

Police bric-a-brac and a vast assortment of autographed women's bras decorated the rafters of the establishment, and one of the walls featured the door from a New Orleans police car, shot full of holes. A patron at the bar claimed a few more bullet holes had been added AFTER the door was affixed to the wall of the bar. Good times at the 1029 Bar!

Tiffany started pressing the bar tender and a guy on the stool next to her for details about the dangling bras and the criteria for adding a bra on the rafters.

"She can't help herself," I told the bar patron. "She has a degree in journalism." After I said that, he actually pulled out a cell phone and shared pictures of a woman--fully clothed, mind you--hanging her bra on the rafters a few nights earlier, because she declared there "needed to be a sports bra up there."

I had my camera with, and--lazy and sitting on my behind--I took a couple pictures from my bar stool, where I was drinking a Virgin Bloody Mary. (A sneaky homage to Tiffany's strong and stabilizing Roman Catholicism, though it sailed right past her) Tiffany grabbed my camera, found a better angle, and returned with a perfect picture of bras dangling from the rafters of the cop bar.

"There!" she said, triumphantly. "How about THAT?"

(Yes, I did not reply, but who brought a camera with in case there was something interesting to photograph?)

Full Of Ideas And Inspiration

Tiffany said all this talk about the impact of blogging had inspired her, and she realized she should restart her on-again, off-again blogging efforts and focus on interesting, substantive experiences in the Minneapolis public school system. I told Tiffany to be careful. But I was glad...because so much of Tiffany's experience takes place in North Minneapolis, and the more people I can get blogging about North Minneapolis, the better.

I've already linked to it a few times but here it is again: Tiffany's blog

Of course...this doesn't change the fact I'm trying to help Tiffany get a writing job on the other side of the planet in, um....Egypt.

Pursue your dream, I told her, but blog about your experiences here in the meantime. And if those experiences touch upon North Minneapolis...well, so much the better.

Husband And Wife Wrestle Burglar


This blog hereby awards two "virtual medals of valor" to the unnamed husband and wife who encountered a burglar at 5244 Camden on Saturday, according to recent 4th Precinct Highlights...

The incident happened Saturday at 1052 Hours, Incident 08-329911. A husband and wife tackled a male they found burglarizing their garage. The husband sustained a severe bite from the burglar, who fought like a terrified little Chihuahua/poodle mixed bitch and--this is not known for sure--may have actually wet himself in terror.

The husband also sustained (quite macho-looking) bruises to his eye and scrapes. Arrested was JEROME BURKHART, a 45-year-old piece of (expletive) with 8 CAPRS, arrested earlier in the month for burglary in the area of Lowry and Penn, plus he and his vehicle matched the description of an earlier attempted burglarly at 41st and Humbolt.

(My Fourth Precinct recap is certainly not EXACTLY the way the highlights are worded, obviously, though they are known to have their own subtle creativity)

Decent North Side citizens are FED UP and FIGHTING BACK.

"Double Raid" Details Continue To Emerge

Photo By A Citizen Volunteer

The "Fourth Precinct Highlights" weekly email listserv is always an informative treat, but this week was like Christmas as details arrived about police raids on 2207 6th St. N. and 2331 Sheridan....

According to the Fourth Precinct, the raid on 2207 6th St. N. took place at 1333 hours (1:33 PM, Civilian Time) and was Incident 08-327709. A CRT search warrant recovered 3 grams of crack cocaine (which was subsequently determined to be 2.5 grams) 30 hits of ecstasy, weed, (unknown quantity) gang material and a loaded 9 mm.

Arrested were Geneiva Brown--possibly the one neighbors call "grandma"--age 60, Calvin Stovall, 54, Annette Brown, 32, Beatrice Brown, 30, William Allen, 27, Darnell Watson, 21, Mitchell Dixon, 51 and Dominique Watson, 18. All of these individuals--with the exception of William Allen--have a history of troubles with the police. Annette Brown has 20 incidents to her name, but this is nothing compared to "Good Boy" Dominique Watson with 43 incidents.

There were 7 "misdemeanor tags" as a result of this raid. Since 8 persons were arrested, it would appear one was not tagged at all.

Change To State Nuisance Law Helps Hawthorne Neighbors

My citizen volunteer passes on information which came "from Jennifer at SAFE." Because of a change recently made to the State Nuisance law, the County Attorney would be able to take much faster action against 2207 6th St. N. The change in the law was sponsored by our very own State Senator Linda Higgins. Had Higgins not made possible this change in the law, a couple more risky and expensive police raids would have been necessary before anything could be done about the crime, drugs, rampant filth and neighborhood terrorizing which emanates like an evil green aura from 2207 6th St. N., the House From Hell.

And this one is no basket of cherries, either...

2331 Sheridan Ave. N.

The "Sheridan Raid" took place the same day, but two hours earlier at 1121 hours. (Incident 08-327605) This is the one where the white van pulled up in front of a guy who was touring the neighborhood, and police emerged with machine guns yelling "get down, get down."

And none of this discouraged the guy who was touring the neighborhood! My kind of (potential) North Minneapolis neighbor!

According to the 4th Precinct Highlights, a narcotics search warrant recovered $4,228, weed, heroin residue, knifes (sic), ammo, two guns--one loaded and both accessible to children in the home. (I assume Child Protective Services is all over this)

Arrested were the following black males and females: Daniel Wheeler, 25, Jasmine McClellan, 25, Klahn Jarbah, 25, Sarah Carey, 22, Lavell Jackson, 21, and Percell Kewis (sic), 22, all with fairly well-developed histories of troubles with the police.


Stolen Blue Honda Civic License Plate PTN 392 Photo

A neighbor who serves on the Hawthorne Housing Committee with me reports her blue Honda Civic was stolen last night from in front of her house on 25th Ave. N. (The image above is from, and it may not be precisely the same shade of blue)

The car's license plate is PTN 392, it is missing the "H" in the "Honda" logo on the front. Its radio antennae is also missing. If you see it driving around, with gangsters dealing crack out the windows, etc., or dumped somewhere, please call the police.

(Do not click "Read More")

Crack! Ecstasy! Filth! A Report On Raids And Other Official Actions Against Problem Properties

Photos By A Citizen Volunteer

All credit for the information and photos in this blog post goes to a brave volunteer citizen who not only provided this info, but has been forced to live for years with this dangerous nonsense. According to this citizen, drugs were found in the recent raid on 2207 6th St. N., including...

...crack, ecstasy and marijuana. Quantities are unknown. A handgun was also found.

According to the citizen volunteer, "It understanding that because of the filthy conditions within the house, inspections will be paying them a visit soon. I guess grandma still seems to feel her grandson (16 years old) is a good boy despite the fact he has been arrested 22 times for narcotics and weapons."

Further, he writes, "I was also informed of the following from CCP/Safe: The Assistant County Attorney has been made aware of the address and will be sending a 'Notice of Nuisance' to the owner. If the problems continue and are not resolved, the County Attorney may file a complaint in the district court that could, among other remedies, result in enjoining the use of the building for any purpose for one year."

The volunteer provided a link to the law in question, click here. He notes there is nothing in the law requiring some kind of "warning letter" to the property owner, and he would prefer to see a complaint filed IMMEDIATELY. The house in question has "terrorized this neighborhood for too many years" and his feeling is "kick 'em all out." Folks in the neighborhood are ready to submit Community Impact Statements if asked.

614 22nd Ave. and 2230 6th St. N.

In addition to the raid on 2207 6th St. N., information has come to my citizen volunteer about possible resolutions with two other problem properties.

In regard to 614 22nd Ave. N., "I just learned the other day this one is in foreclosure with a redemption date of some time in early December fast approaching. Without a doubt, this has been our most longstanding owner-occupied House From Hell. Grandma's kids and grand kids have been dealing out of the house and all around the neighborhood for at least 10 years.

A couple of years ago, one of the grandchildren threatened to kill my neighbor and her family. Luckily, the police took the threat seriously. He was arrested, spent some time in jail and was ultimately banned from the neighborhood by the courts.

Two other adults living there have a total of around 60 arrests for narcotics, assault, forgery, arson, burglary, theft, etc. The volunteer writes, "Although part of me feels bad about a 76-year-old woman losing her house, I'll still sleep at night."

In regard to 2230 6th St. N., this one may be on its way to condemnation. In the very distant past, this building was a neighborhood store, but someone converted it to a duplex ages ago. Without a doubt, one of our neighborhood's biggest eyesores. The citizen volunteer says, "Ugly buildings attract ugly people." This one has had 25 911 calls in 2007 and 48 in 2008.

According to the housing inspector, as passed on by the citizen volunteer, "Property scored above the condemnation threshold and I have posted it with a letter of intent for condemnation. Property will be condemned after November 23rd if owner does not comply with the outstanding Housing Violations."

All in all...the neighborhood appears to be moving forward. Word that SOMETHING was found in the raid on 2207 6th St. N. is especially good to hear.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Become A "Yellow Pages Termite," And Join The Doorstep Liberation Front

Photo By John Hoff

Ed Kohler of The Deets blog has been sifting internet data for valuable intelligence about THE ENEMY, which in this case is not crack heads or copper thieves but the thoughtless tree-killing corporate clones who dump unwanted phone books on our doorsteps...

Ed turned up this URL to an industry-insider discussion (click here) about unwanted phone book dumping, which Ed refers to as "Yellow Pages delivery spam."

It turns out the Association of Directory Publishers convened in San Antonio, where they quickly learned "Alamo" means "Cottonwood," so they formed a pinstriped posse and proceeded to downtown San Antonio, shouting "yee haw," to see if there were any cottonwoods left in the vicinity of The Alamo which they could grind up and turn into paper pulp.

Disappointed to find there are relatively few trees in San Antonio, they reconvened at their hotel where they solaced themselves by wasting as many paper cocktail napkins as possible and "TP-ing" their hotel rooms before hearing a speech from Ken Clark, one of the top consultants in the country. (According to...Clark, I guess)

Clark presented an "update on the state of the industry" where he said bad industry press was outweighing the good press (for this they pay him WHAT?!) and he cited TheDeets.Com as an example of bad press the industry is receiving.

Way to go, Ed.

The URL in question (click here) has a comments section, and I made a point of submitting something along the lines of "you should all be arrested for littering" and hoping aloud neighborhoods will start suing the phone book companies. It's an open thread. Johnny Northside readers are urged to have fun, especially since all this writing is VIRTUAL and no trees will be sacrificed for your self-expression.

Join the Doorstep Liberation Front today, and become a "Yellow Pages termite."

Breakfast With Congressman Ellison And More (A Report From HNC Housing Director Jeff Skrenes)

Photographer Unknown, Image Contributed By Jeff Skrenes

Our Hawthorne Housing Director, Jeff Skrenes, was busy last week representing the Hawthorn Neighborhood at a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus, and more. Jeff sent me a full report by email, and here it is...

This week, (Jeff says) I had the opportunity to speak for two panels: the U.S. House of Representatives Congressional Black Caucus was in town, and in the Hawthorne Neighborhood, holding a forum on the housing crisis. Two days later, I spoke at a policy forum at the U of M continuing education center.

First, the Congressional Black Caucus: I had breakfast with Congressman Ellison (Jeff drops, oh-so-casually) as well as our own (State Senator) Linda Higgins. Keith (Ellison) was right on top of things as usual. I explained how mortgage companies started charging a 5 percent extra payment for a downpayment in "declining markets." When I asked bankers and brokers if this constituted red-lining, they said, "No, because the whole metro area is considered declining."

Before I could even finish, Keith jumped in and said, very animatedly--even more animated than he usually is--"Are you trying to tell me that someone buying in Kenwood needs an extra 5 percent, too?"

That was my point, exactly, there are different standards for (the) Hawthorne (neighborhood) than other neighborhoods, and Keith picked right up on it. Likewise, I mentioned that credit card companies are using where someone makes a purchase, and if it is in an area with a high degree of mortgage fraud, as a means to raise rates or lower spending limits.

Again, Keith took my train of thought and ran with it. I love mixed metaphors.

"So," Keith said, "Someone buying at Savers, or spending their money to revitalize North Minneapolis could be punished for that." This is not a direct quote, but the content is there. Ellison is big on credit card issues, so I made sure he had that article.

At the caucus itself, Fox 9's Robyne Robinson was the moderator. There were three panels discussion the foreclosure crisis and its various impacts. Each panel had 4 to 5 people, so we had to move quickly. The Representatives each spoke, than panelists had 2 minutes apiece to make a statement, then the Representatives and/or people in the audience could ask questions for 20 minutes.

I was asked to be on the panel because I am co-chair of ACORN's financial justice committee in Minnesota, as well as for the work in Hawthorne. Because it was primarily my ACORN connection that got me on the panel, I wore my button and my opening comment dealt with ACORN as well:

"First off, I have to inform anyone who may not be familiar with the area and especially those who have traveled that you are in the Hawthorne community right now. This is where I live and work. I am PROUD of my neighborhood and so I am deeply honored that you have come here today to discuss this important issue.

"I am also glad to hear some of our speakers refer to the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act as a turning point in how we got to where we are now in this crisis. Nine years ago, who knew what this obscure piece of legislation was? Well, ACORN did, and they protested against its repeal.

"ACORN was speaking out against predatory lending before predatory lending was a (phrase in the popular lexicon). ACORN marched on Wall Street to speak out against the securitization of subprime mortgages before folks fully understood how that worked and how it could impact our communities. In Minnesota, we helped pass the first protection against foreclosure rescue scams called 'equity stripping.' We passed a landmark anti-predatory lending bill in 2007, and had a subprime mortgage deferment bill that was passed but vetoed.

"In the recent bailout package, Representative Barney Frank proposed bankruptcy protections for subprime mortgage victims, but that was taken out. The language that defined who would qualify under Frank's proposal was very similar to the definitions in Minnesota's legislation. Either Frank borrowed from us, or great minds think alike. But moving forward, that's what we need: stronger protections to keep people in their homes, and fair lending in communities affected by this crisis."

At the end, one of the questions was regarding what is being done to help rebuild some of these communities. My response: "We are seeing that someone buying in Hawthorne needs an extra 5 percent down, but not in other neighborhoods. In the short term, Hawthorne is evaluating some assistance programs to counter that and get people into homes now. We just had a meeting with the Minnesota Mortgage Association and discussed this problem with them as well. If that does not lead to constructive changes, we are gathering evidence of what may be redlining. That evidence will become stones that we put in our sling, because we've taken down giants before."

(Here, Jeff is clearly alluding to the recently-settled lawsuit with CitiMortgage)

On Wednesday, I spoke at a Policy Conference at the University of Minnesota's Continuing Education Center. This time, I had 15 minutes to speak, so I won't do verbatim quotes. I did say that while some folks have called low-income communities "the canary in the coal mine" in relation to how when we suffer, it's an indicator of problems to come in the larger economy.

I responded that, no, the problem is so severe and widespread, we're more like the three-eyed fish next to the nuclear power plant. I then showed a picture of (the Polish woman's) garden in full bloom, saying that the dots indicating each individual foreclosure are too often the "face of North Minneapolis" but this is ALSO the face of North Minneapolis.

A banker was on that block and saw the vacancies and problems, and said, "I don't even know where you start." I responded, "You start with a vision of the community."

That's not Polyannish, either. In 2002, there were 16 boarded/vacant homes in Hawthorne. In 2008, there were 165. Since 2005, we've given loans or grants to 183 properties in Hawthorne, and now only 10 0f those are boarded. That shows how when a community vision is enacted well, it can have a tremendously positive and stabilizing effect on the neighborhood. I finished with some dicussion around the "five percent issue."

One of the questioners asked why we wouldn't put bankruptcy laws to use on first mortages. I responded that, traditionally, the industry line against such a move was that if we did so, credit markets would freeze up and no one would want to lend money. Widespread chuckles followed, and I said, very sarcastically, "I know, sounds scary, doesn't it? We sure wouldn't want THAT to happen."

Retaliation Comes, Finally, On 6th St. N. photo, Zen rock garden

As expected, some form of retaliation happened on 6th St. N. in light of the massive police raid on "2207." According to a source in that part of the neighborhood...

...on Sunday night, yesterday, somebody tried to throw a rock through the patio door window of one of the decent people who lives on the block. However, the rock missed the window. It still broke some siding, however. Police were called and responded within minutes, but apparently nobody was caught. There is doubt whether the retaliation will cease with one badly-thrown rock.

A block club meeting had taken place at the residence in question some hours before. The meeting was to discuss all the goings-on happening lately, including the raid on 2207.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Image Of Thursday's Raid On 2207 6th St. N.

Photo By A Good Citizen

This photo comes from a citizen who witnessed the massive police raid on 2207 6th St. N. He didn't grab his camera until...

...late in the raid process, so unfortunately we have no pictures of police in full gear charging with machine guns. A pity. 

This image was taken after all the police were inside. According to the source who took the picture, one person was slightly injured during the raid, so that's why the ambulance was called.

We're all waiting for details of what happened. Eventually, the info will surely appear on the "4th Precinct Highlights" which is a document sent around by listserv, and a great resource to receive. 

I always look forward to the highlights, but right now I'm ESPECIALLY eager to read 'em.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Coordinated Raids On Thursday?

Photo By John Hoff, Drug Dealers Near 2207 6th St. N.

Word comes by email that right about the time police were raiding 2207 6th St. N., another massive raid was taking place on the 2300 block of Sheridan...

According to second hand info, therefore "word on the street," at about 11:30 AM on Thursday, a citizen was driving through the alley and found himself blocked by a white van. He went into a driveway to allow the white van to pass, but the van didn't move. Instead, it disgorged approximately 15 police in full gear, with machine guns, yelling "Get down, get down, GET DOWN!!!"

The decent people on the North Side are cheering these actions by the police, and hoping for more of them.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Massive" Police Raid On 2207 6th St. N. TODAY

Photo By John Hoff 

Word comes from an anonymous source of a "massive" police raid on 2207 6th St. N., a house which has become the scourge of the neighborhood. The photo above shows a couple of drug dealers who hang out in that area. The following info comes from the anonymous source in question...

The raid took place around mid-day. Windows were broken out of 2207 6th St. N., people were seen in handcuffs, police dogs were going inside and there were police cars "everywhere." One neighbor said he/she was "so happy I can hardly contain myself."

The neighbor observed "one dozen police" in "full gear" and said the scene "looked like a flippin' military operation. The neighbor gives credit to Lt. Rugel for taking the initiative, and does not see anybody but Lt. Rugel as deserving of credit in the matter.

Word of the incident spread rapidly on the "de facto" neighborhood association listserv, and one recipient of the information replied, "Oh, no, that's a pity! I had them down for bringing the cookies on Sunday!" At about 4 PM, I also observed a great deal of police activity in the neighborhood, and in light of this activity, it seems possible the raid at 2207 was part of a larger effort. I hope so. 

Information--third hand via the anonymous source, therefore "word on the street," says a flat screen television was carried out of the house by police. The owner of the house--known to long-suffering, decent neighbors as "grandma"--was observed driving away, then returning to the house with a bottle of booze in a brown paper bag. There has been loose talk of filing a lawsuit against "Grandma" and trying to take away her house in a judgment. Neighbors are FED UP AND FIGHTING BACK. 

A while after the raid, some individuals who associate with the notorious drug house in question were seen walking angrily in the direction of neighboring houses then--as though thinking better of rash action--stopping and turning around. Neighbors are fearful of retaliation--in the form of bullets, fire, objects through windows, the usual stuff--TONIGHT.

More details as I receive them. STAY STRONG DECENT PEOPLE OF HAWTHORNE. We are not alone and we are taking back our neighborhood from thugs and scum.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Photographer Unknown

Let me emphasize that CitiMortgage has admitted NO WRONGDOING in their settlement agreement and... the strictest LEGAL sense, you can't say our side "won" with the lawsuit settlement. But, for some reason, Jeff Skrenes just felt compelled to smoke a cigar as a piece of heavy equipment knocked down 415 31st. Ave. N. to make way for the Eco-Village.

Here are more pictures that recently came into my hands.

McDonalds In Dinkytown Has A "Contract" With ATM Provider, Won't Take Credit Cards

Photo By John Hoff

If there's another McDonalds in the world that won't take credit cards, I haven't caught wind of it. Heck, I hear there are places in Texas willing to accept MEXICAN PESOS and up near...

...the Canadian border, even while still on the "American side" I've been able to buy gasoline and other products with "loonies." But the McDonalds in Dinkytown won't take credit cards. Why? It's because they have a "contract" with their ATM provider.

So, yeah, if it's 2 in the morning, and you're a drunk college student--which is who patronizes the place in droves at that hour--there's an ATM right in the corner, and you can get cash. For a small fee. And all those small fees add up quickly, ka-ching.

I thought it would be difficult to get somebody with management to admit this was the situation...that I'd have to entice a disgruntled worker to give me information on the sly, or file a complaint with some state authority, or...something.

But one night about a month ago, while eating McNuggets or whatever, I just casually asked the Peter-Brady-Looking manager boy, "Hey, why won't this place take credit cards?"

So Peter Brady told me, quiet casually, as he mopped the floor. He said it's because there is a contract with the ATM provider, which specifies this establishment won't take credit cards.

Huh. And that's LEGAL? That isn't, like, um...NOT LEGAL?

Well, it sucks. And I have a blog, so I'm saying something.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The "Secured Gas Station" At West Broadway And Lyndale Ave. N.

Photo By John Hoff

I recently learned the Winner gas station at West Broadway and Lyndale Ave. N. is NOT AS BAD AS IT USED TO BE, even though things look rough there, sometimes. According to a source named Jim W., who is involved in the business operations at the gas station...

Nobody has been murdered there in "12 years." Jim told me the gas station used to have a "grease rack," and the hot food would attract a rough crowd. That is to say...rougher than the crowd which gasses up there now.

Police are always present because the business owners brought the police in, to keep the place secure. That is, of course, a never-ended battle since no-account chronic inebriates and blatant open-air drug dealers congregate near the mega-huge liquor store across the street. They make their way to the Winner gas station to buy Swisher Sweets, cheap Honey Buns or...whatever. Whatever it is thugs buy.

But nobody has been murdered at the gas station in 12 years, according to my source. Therefore, I will not refer to this place as the "Murder Station." I now dub it the "Secured Gas Station."

I will also add this: all gas stations are "murder stations." Read about the bad things which happen in Nigeria so Shell can extract oil. The gas we buy sends money to the Middle East, which ultimately funds terrorism. Fossil fuel consumption is murdering the earth itself.

Therefore all gas stations are murder stations.

ADDENDUM, PLEASE NOTE: This post was altered in late April, 2009, in response to a plea from individuals involved in the ownership of the station, and a favor or two which involved giving me information about 422 30th Ave. N.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The World's Largest Lutefisk Processor!

Photo By John Hoff

Among other claims to fame, the Hawthorne Neighborhood is home to the world's largest lutefisk processor, which is the Olsen Fish Company, click here for their website. For their "Lutefisk Hotline," call 1-800-882-0212 for assistance with your lutefisk addiction.

Recently, while I was in a small town in rural Minnesota, I found some lutefisk for sale and asked the guy working behind the meat counter if...

...the lutefisk was from Minneapolis. He went in the back and checked something, and confirmed it was, indeed. But then he said, "It's leftover from the church supper, though. We had too much."

Wow, I thought, how can you have TOO MUCH LUTEFISK? And the idea of it being LEFTOVER lutefisk just made it so much more attractive.

Even when I leave Hawthorne, I find that Hawthorne has not left me and I find pieces of my neighborhood everywhere. In this a serving of lutefisk.

Batmobile (Almost) Lost Its Wheel

Photo By John Hoff

So the van I bought off my little brother--the one the chickens seemed to like so much, click here--had a few hidden mechanical issues...

The driver's side left wheel kept squeaking, oddly, but I figured it was just from sitting in a field for so long. And after a while it stopped squeaking. And started grinding. I meant to get it looked at, really, but with the kind of junk I drive my idea of "preventative maintenance" is to keep adding oil.

So about a week ago, I was in North Minneapolis and getting set to hit Interstate 94 and drive to my ancestral rural homeland at breakneck speed, when all of a sudden it felt like THE FREAKING WHEEL WAS COMING OFF. Such a cacophony of grinding metal! I realized I was only about three blocks from Highland Auto Tire, the really cool Hmong-owned auto shop where they give me a good deal when crack heads slash my tires.

I decided not to stop, because I might not be able to go again. I figured if I didn't make it to Highland, I'd at least get close to their garage doors. But I made it there. Barely.

The mechanic made me drive my vehicle into the garage myself because he figured the wheel would come off. Turned out..well, something to do with the axle. A rubber gasket had been severely ripped, allowing a lot of road grit to get into the moving parts, which eventually caused a major malfunction. An hour later, when I took this picture, the metal still felt quite warm to the touch from all the friction.

On the bright side: they fixed it in an hour for $208, and I hit Interstate 94 with very little loss of time. I LOVE HIGHLAND AUTO TIRE and I'm glad to spend my money in the Hawthorne neighborhood, something I do very consciously.

Angels Watching Over Me

The fact this happened JUST BLOCKS BEFORE THE ON-RAMP, and merely one minute before my firmly-laid plans to travel at high rate of speed for 150 miles or so is nothing short of miraculous. I give credit for my survival to Peter Teachout, who is apparently always praying heavenly protection for those around him, even when I neglect to do it myself.

Turn Back This Negative Trend Of Sidewalk Advertising

Photo By John Hoff, Advertising By Satan

The horror, the horror. In front of the Acadia Cafe on the West Bank is this...this...CRAP on the sidewalk...

Which appears to be, good lord, ADVERTISING.

It's bad enough that ads get plastered all over the light rail, decreasing the ability to see out the windows, or that you can't even take a leak in a urinal without an ad being in front of your face, but now...ON THE FREAKING SIDEWALK? If this trend continues, then laws against public urination and defecation will have to be repealed, just so citizens can talk back to the sidewalk ads.

I don't know if the City of Minneapolis gave "permission," or if the company just went out and did it, but either way the trend should be TURNED BACK. Though it is my impression sidewalk "chalking" was upheld by the courts, and I wouldn't object to chalk, even if it were a commercial message, but THIS?!!! Arg. GO AWAY SIDEWALK ADVERTISING, AMERICA DOESN'T WANT YOU AND YOU SUCK!!!!!!

430 30th Ave. N. Goes Down

Photos By John Hoff

430 30th Ave. N. was once known as "The Mexican House" because of the family which owned it--though HNC Chairman Peter Teachout used to call it "The Spanish House" in an attempt to be politically correct, which more correctly would be "The Latino House," but I digress...

And the whole point is...the thing is gone. Poof. Bulldozer fodder.

Some lines from the utility pole were laying on the ground because the house went down so recently, and the utility company hasn't had a chance to come along and literally "tie up the loose ends."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Jeff Has A Close Encounter Of The Kemps Ice Cream Kind

Photo By John Hoff

So my friend Jeff Skrenes (above, looking pensive) almost got killed a few days ago, thanks to a truck from Kemps Ice Cream. It went like this...

Jeff, the Housing Director of Hawthorne, was beginning a 20-mile ride on Saturday, October 11, from the Hawthorne Neighborhood down the river parkway to the midtown greenway, then back up Theo Wirth through the nature preserve. He describes this as "a great ride, by the way."

Jeff was at the corner of Broadway and 4th and preparing to turn left. He was behind an SUV waiting to do the same thing. Jeff was at "what would normally be a safe distance" when the driver of a semi began to "bully" so he could turn.

The driver of the semi had the green light, but not enough space to make a right turn toward the Kemps Ice Cream parking lot. Instead, the SUV driver had to quickly throw his vehicle into reverse to avoid a collision. Jeff said "I should point out that I could clearly see the Kemps driver, meaning that I was also in HIS line-of-sight."

So the SUV kicked it into reverse before seeing Jeff, and ran over Jeff's front tire. But not Jeff. Jeff was, himself, moving backward but obviously not fast enough.

The driver of the SUV was "a good Samaritan" and made sure Jeff was OK. It turned out the driver had lived in the Hawthorne neighborhood for the past 15 years. The SUV driver threw Jeff's bike in the back of his vehicle and went to talk to the driver who (predictably) insisted it was all the SUV's fault and he wasn't responsible for ANYTHING.

So Jeff and the SUV driver took the plate number of the SUV and left. The SUV driver brought Jeff to a bike shop which was, actually, along Jeff's route. Not just any old bike shop, Jeff noted, but the driver cared enough to keep Jeff ON HIS PRE-PLANNED ROUTE. The Good Samaritan in an SUV bought Jeff a new tire, which cost $83 and some cents.

Both Jeff and the driver agreed the whole thing was really the fault of Kemps, and Kemps should reimburse the SUV driver. But messages and attempts to approach Kemps about it have been, so far, unsuccessful. (An idea for Jeff: Just pin a note to one of the houses near Kemps, the ones they are lusting over for expansion and parking lots. That way they're sure to see it!)

Ironically, Jeff's family in Upper Michigan used to sell all their milk to Kemps. It's a small, creamy world.

WORD OF THE DAY: "Domicide," The Death Of Homes

Photo By "Kevin"

My map-obsessed buddy from the Humphrey Institute, Dave Arbit, told me about a term one of his professors throws around in class...

Which is "domicide," and it means "the death of homes." I don't think the professor in question, Jeff Krump of the College of Design, coined the term. In fact, there is a book with that title, click here, and also the word can be found at Urban Dictionary, to which I am both an editor and a contributor.

Or maybe Professor Jeff Krump DID coin it. Who knows? Anybody who KNOWS can chime in on the comments section.

I'm glad to have learned of the word (and the book) from Jeff Krump, via Dave Arbit.

OK, technically I looked the book up on my own, but all the same Dave Arbit has contributed substantially to my current reading list. Right now I'm reading two books about public housing projects and "the making of the second ghetto." Now, soon enough, I'll have to read up on "Domicide."

How Tearing Down Homes Makes A Certain Twisted Sense

But I was thinking about it and I realized, huh, some of this might make a certain twisted logical sense. Say, for example, Poor And Troubled Family X lives in a house in North Minneapolis. Maybe they rent the house, maybe they own it, for purposes of my hypothetical, it doesn't matter. But every year, the house generates a certain amount of revenue in the form of taxes and utility payments, less the ACTUAL cost to the City of Minneapolis of, say, the water and garbage pickup.

OK, now let us say Poor And Troubled Family X costs the City of Minneapolis money every year, in the form of numerous 911 calls to the house--each of which is surprisingly costly--and social services for the children, and bogging down the justice system, and damaging the property of their neighbors, and so forth. EVERY YEAR, troubled family X manages to cost the City of Minneapolis more money than the City captures in taxes, fines, fees and utility revenue.

Then one day...oh, my word. The house becomes vacant! And it's a run down house, so either it will fall into the hands of a slumlord--the most likely scenario, who will find a Troubled Family Y and Z to put in the house--after converting it to a duplex--or some yuppied family will lavish attention and money on the house, and make it their dream Victorian. NOT AS LIKELY AS THE FIRST ONE.

At this point, what is the City of Minneapolis going to be thinking? They're going to think: TEAR THE HOUSE DOWN!!! In the long run, a vacant lot will decrease housing density, and raise the value of the houses around it, and--most important--no more Troubled Family X racking up a zillion 911 calls and costing the City of Minneapolis more money than it takes in.

I'm sure these ideas must be somewhere in that book about domicide. I will have to read the book, I guess, to see if my presumption is correct.

Until You Realize It's Just STUPID

But I don't see tearing down homes as a solution to ANYTHING, not unless the houses are truly ready to fall down on their own or somebody is ready--ready at THAT MOMENT--to build something bigger and better on that spot of ground.

Destruction of homes for the sake of some fiscal bottom line in a bean counter's argument is a ridiculous proposition which is out of sync with the earth, rather like the idea of "spending your way to prosperity," which allegedly works fine...except when you start to factor THE ENVIRONMENT into the equation.

There are only so many resources on earth--including nice old houses--and lavishly bulldozing those resources because of some twisted Bureaucratic Bean Counter Math From Hell is just STUPID.

Remembrance Of Things Demolished (2123 6th St. N.)

Photos By John Hoff

These pictures show the house from the previous post, when I toured it with Connie Nompelis, before the Backhoe Of Doom got it. The photos show...Among other things, the hand-cut stones in the foundation, and the glorious claw foot bathtub which was--fortunately--removed prior to demolition.

This is an instance where there was too much haste in the demolition, because the legal process went forward and there was nobody to advocate for the least not advocates who were strong enough to make a difference.

On the bright side: there are many more houses to buy and to save. This particular house could have been purchased, toward the end, for a pittance...and saving it probably would have involved talking to some certain folks in the city government, going to a hearing, proving a commitment of sufficient fiscal resources to transform the house into something besides yet another crack-o-topia.

THERE ARE MANY MORE HOUSES TO SAVE. Best to get to work doing it.

Oh, there's another bright side, too. The complete destruction of the house helps bury my shame and horror from touching The Thing In The Window I Thought Was A New, Unique Kind of North Minneapolis Fungi, But (I Realized Too Late) Wasn't.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Can Nothing Stop The Bulldozers Of Doom?!!!!

Photo By "Kevin"

So much for "this house needs a good home." Here's 2123 6th St. N. going down. These days, the Hawthorne Neighborhood looks like a sequel to the movie "Transformers." CAN NOTHING STOP THE BULLDOZERS OF DOOM?!!

OK, technically it's a "backhoe."


OK, wait a minute...some of us are actually cheering the bulldozers of doom. But, honestly, I thought THIS ONE could have been saved.

It was owned--according to the most recent, not-very-trustworthy information, by Jay R. Petsche of Lonsdale. Some information which turned up on the internet leads me to believe he is a real estate agent. He owns another home in North Minneapolis, as well.

Owner Names Are Suddenly...SEARCHABLE?!!!

Here's something that really gives me a kick...when I searched Petsche's name, two Google entries led me back to the City of Minneapolis property info website. I've never had that happen before. Oh, sure, I've turned up PDF files of houses with lots of back taxes...but something seems to have changed.

On the one hand, it's ungainly and awkward that I can't just search the City of Minneapolis website by name of owner.

But if I can search Google by name of owner, and find all the entries on the City of Minneapolis website...that's almsot as good! I think I'll try some of my favorites right now, like stripper Irene Thomas of St. Cloud, who was the straw buyer for Universal Mortgage. Weeeeeee.

Yeah, I'm easy to entertain. Just give me a computer and evidence of mortgage fraud, and I can keep myself happy for hours.

(Do not click "Read More")

DO NOT TRUST City of Minneapolis Websites (At Least When It Comes To Utility Bills)

Photo By John Hoff

I heard this recently from somebody at a title company. She was closing on a property in North Minneapolis and needed to check the utility bill for water, sewer, garbage, etc. She checked the Minneapolis website...

And it said zero dollars, zero cents. To be prudent, she checked it again closer to the closing. Same deal; zero dollars, zero cents.

Per the instructions of the title company, the buyer called Minneapolis to switch the bill over. That's when somebody in Minneapolis finally "looked something up" and, oh gee, there was more than $1,000 owing. If the buyer hadn't called his real estate agent, who passed on the info to the title company, the buyer would have been stuck with a $1,000 water bill. Yeah, try going back and getting that money out of a bank with a bunch of bad mortgages.

SO DO NOT TRUST THE CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS WEBSITE when it comes to utility bills. Actually, that's not the only thing you can't trust on their takes forever to update property ownership, too.

Citizens rely on these websites for vital information and yet most of the City of Minneapolis websites are just clunk, clunk, clunk...junk, junk, junk.