Photo By John Hoff
There are moments in NoMi when you look around and say, "The tide is turning. A rough neighborhood is transforming before my eyes, and new history is being written in front of me." The "$7,900 House Party" sponsored by Realtor Connie Nompelis was one of those moments. Three or four dozen people attended, and nobody was shot in the chest in a heated drunken dispute over a woman, crack cocaine, or being "dissed."
In my observation, parties have stages: the concept stage, the preparation stage, the "party hearty" stage, and then the cleanup/afterglow stage. Reveling in a successful event, sharing pictures, even the delicious social gossip spinning out of a great FIESTA...this is part of the "afterglow" stage. Some parties glow so brightly that, hearing about the event later, you almost feel like you were there or, should I say, HERE.
If you're not already here in North Minneapolis, (NoMi) find yourself a Realtor and check out this amazing place where houses with antique woodwork, skyline views, and a front porch facing a city park can be had for less money than what might be the limits of your credit card. There is adventure here, as we band together in strong personal bonds and fight to transform our neighborhood. There is VICTORY here, and not merely in the neighborhood actually named "Victory," as we repeatedly win the revitalization battle.
A crack pipe under the antique radiator? (Top picture, on envelope.) It is a ridiculous ghetto artifact to laugh about, to scorn as we sip red wine. In the second photo, a party guest who sometimes reads this blog learned about the So Low! food store at Emerson Ave. N. and Lowry Ave. N., and she brought goat cheese (99 cents) and this big piece of brie, which cost a mere...
...buck ninety-nine. Notice how the "President" brand brie cheese appears to say "Resident."
This is part of our NoMi lifestyle: affordable luxury. You can buy a house for $7,900 and live on brie cheese for pocket change. If there were three words to describe our lifestyle here in NoMi, it might be these:
Meaningful. Affordable. Sustainable.
MEANINGFUL because we are writing history. There are rough aspects of our neighborhood, and you can see those aspects just driving down a street while bargain hunting for real estate. But every day, with fresh paint and the help of city officials, we are transforming our neighborhood and pushing toward urban utopia. Our lives are meaningful because we are part of something BIGGER than ourselves, we are in the middle of a colorful urban revitalization adventure.
A stranger walks up to a vacant house, and that stranger doesn't look right.
Within moments, somebody will emerge from an occupied house and say words like, "Can I help you? I'm the block watch." If that stranger doesn't have a damn good reason to be there, they will be asked to leave, and then out comes the cell phone. If the stranger has harsh words to say, that is even better: the story will be told and retold to friends and members of the neighborhood association, the very best stories will, hopefully, find their way to this blog.
This kind of neighborhood activism doesn't happen EVERYWHERE in our neighborhood. It happens at the edges, where what is nice and safe and clean is aggressively pushing up against what needs to BECOME that way. But often it happens right in the heart of what is tough and gritty, as certain adventurous personalities embrace their "inner Johnny Apple Seed."
AFFORDABLE: Somebody like Connie Nompelis has decided to simply BE the change she is seeking. If Connie waits for somebody else to transform the neighborhood in the Historic Farview Park District, she won't be snapping up a hidden real estate gem for $7,900.
SUSTAINABLE: We can not only afford to live here--which is a big part of something being sustainable--but our neighborhoods have a vision of becoming environmentally friendly, carbon neutral, and (here's that overly-general buzzword) "green." Sure, we weren't very "carbon neutral" while roasting Peeps marshmallow candy over a bonfire, but when downtown Minneapolis is within short biking distance, we'll all make up for our late night bonfires in the gasoline we're saving.
Oh, yes, more pictures: in the next photo, some details of an upstairs bedroom. At some point, a resident of this house redecorated. They were afflicted by tragic insensitivity to color, but heaven help them, they tried. Somebody who loved a little boy and saw an athlete in that child was responsible for this sport-themed trim. But then things fell apart. Then water damaged the ceiling, and nobody bothered to fix it. Did the child who grew up in this room smoke the crack pipe I found under the living room radiator?
Maybe when the vacant houses of the neighborhood are settled with new residents, there will be opportunities to delve more deeply into these minor mysteries of the house.
The next photo shows some of the papery bric-a-brac one finds at a foreclosed home. Connie prefers to leave stuff like this hanging for a long time. It's apparently part of her "shabby chic" aesthetic, "heavy on the chic."
The next photo was taken at an early stage of the party, when you can't help but wonder how many people will attend, whether the gathering will be a success. Connie stands near a window and watches one of the first guests arrive, her body language like that of a teenage girl on prom night.
On a bedroom door, some sign of a previous resident of the house, or more likely a squatter. I should have brought my Sharpie marker so we could all sign the door. Clearly, Connie will end up replacing such cheap interior doors with something antique, something appropriate to the renovation of the house.
In the second-to-last photo, Connie's mother and stepfather. They can't keep expressions of concern out of their face as their daughter takes on a tough mission of urban revitalization, but another expression is apparent, as well: pride. I hope they are in our neighborhood all the time.
In the bottom photo, taken from a second story window, Connie's stepdad looks over something on the back of the house, probably the electric meter. Yes, a party with wine and cheese took place at a house without ELECTRICITY, without RUNNING WATER.
And the party was a great success.