Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More Photos--"The Devil's Brothel" Goes Down At 3020 6th St. N., NoMi Activists Celebrate With Sausage, Vodka, And Hula Hooping!

Photos By John Hoff and Jeff Skrenes, post by John Hoff

Above, Housing Director Jeff Skrenes holds a hula hoop in front of the demolition of 3020 6th St. N.

Yes, I realize this blog has a tendency to report demolition in extensive detail. There are reasons for this.

First of all, NoMi neighborhood activists fight so long against certain problem properties--places with a fatal combination of decrepit structure combined with criminal thugs--that when the Backhoe of Doom finally arrives, we can't get enough of watching in delight or, as Commander Mike Martin put it so well, "reveling" in the demolition. (Of course, the "delight" is mixed with regret in this case. The house at 3020 6th St. N. could have been a renovation success story before the unsolved arson ruined that possibility)

But on to the second reason for the obsessive demolition coverage:

Though this blog always writes for a CURRENT audience, we also write for the history books. Right now, our neighborhood is being massively transformed, as houses which stood for a hundred years get demolished or--hopefully, and more often--get snapped up by a new wave of enthusiastic owner occupants. Some day, the current generation of children will have their own children and grandchildren in NoMi, and they will be curious about what once stood at the home where they reside. They will be FASCINATED to learn it was the devil's own brothel, or a beautiful historic home tragically fallen on hard times and (quite arguably) prematurely demolished.

So, keeping in mind that 3020 6th St. N. stood for a hundred years and then went down in mere hours, here is more of the story-in-pictures of yesterday's demolition...

Moments before the demolition, one of the workers makes measurements for plastic sheeting to cover the loads of haz mat coming from the house. 

Would you like fries with that? A mysterious order of fries was on the ground as the workman measured out the plastic sheeting. 

As the house was torn apart, we saw a toilet hanging at a sideways angle. I asserted the toilet was made out of steel, like a prison toilet, but another bystander said it was standard porcelain, covered with soot from the fire. I couldn't believe the guy running the backhoe let the toilet hang there and hang there. I would have been all, like, WOO!!! SMASH THE POTTY!!! 

This photo gives a better idea of where the toilet was during the demolition. When you watch a building get demolished, you get caught up in the fate of individual objects, whether it's a bathroom mirror or a historic trunk, tragically and needlessly smashed at the house of Pauline Fjelde, despite the feeble efforts of a toothless and cowardly Heritage Preservation Commission. 

When consuming champagne in a public street, it is very important to make sure you cover the bottle with a paper bag. I offered Commander Mike Martin a drink, but he declined. 

The faces of two little Hmong children watch in a window, fascinated with the demolition. Unlike the little face which watched the demolition of Pauline Fjelde's house, the lives of these children will be made better by the demolition, not worse. 

Knock knock, who's there? 

Tyrone Jaramillo of the Jordan Neighborhood--pictured in his van next to Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes--came by to see if any scrap metal could be salvaged at the demo site, but went away empty-handed. He was still in a cheerful mood to see our neighborhood making progress. 

Detail of Tyrone's steering wheel. 

The demolition site was fenced off due to asbestos danger. 

Water used to keep dust down at the site made this oddly-beautiful scene. Look at all that scrap metal. There has to be a better, more environmentalist way to do these demolitions in the so-called "Eco Village." 

Workmen use plastic sheeting to cover the load of Haz Mat. Gee, what if we used biodegradable corn starch plastic instead of petroleum-based plastic? 

The Backhoe of Doom stands on the spot where one drug addict after another knocked on the door. 

Taking a break from watching the demolition, Jeff and I went to the house of "the Polish lady" and her husband for our traditional "demolition day" meal of Polish sausage. Above, "Andy the Sausage Maker" poses proudly with an advertisement in the "Northeaster" community newspaper, which features his likeness. 

Andy is kind of a "sausage maker rock star," an expert artisan whose medium is meat. This Christmas, he made over a thousand pounds of sausage for his employer. If you want to try the great Polish sausages that folks in the Eco Village rave about, Andy works at Sentyrz Liquor and Supermarket in Northeast, click here for more info. 

Above, the ad in Northeaster which made Andy proud. The ad features greetings in Polish. 

Above, Jeff enjoys Polish sausage with Polish mustard on Polish bread. This is the first time we sat down and ate our "demolition sausage" with a plate and silver wear. Usually we just gnaw it cold for breakfast while walking around, checking progress in the Eco Village. (Fortunately, the sausage is just as delicious cold as it is hot!) 

Andy served us this amazing and unique vodka. Zubrowka vodka is flavored with something called "bison grass" which grows in the last bit of untouched, primeval forest in--so the bottle says--all of Europe. The forest is known as the "North Podlasie Lowland" in the region of Bialowieza. This aromatic plant resists cultivation and must be harvested by hand in the wild. What a perfect Eco Village drink! (Here's a link to one of the Eco Village planting projects) 

The aromatic flavor is amazing, complex and very complimentary to the vodka, unlike so many newfangled flavored vodkas where the flavor appears to have little resonance with the vodka itself. In fact, this vodka barely tasted like vodka. The aromatic plant which flavored the alcohol (and gave it a subtle olive hue) seemed to create a wholly new and different drink. Andy brings this stuff all the way from a Polish neighborhood in Chicago. If you can get your hands on some of this stuff, give it a try. You won't be disappointed.

Our meal also featured Tyskie Polish beer and Polish mustard. Even the bread was Polish. Andy brings many of these items from Chicago because he can't obtain them locally. The connection this couple maintains to their native land is amazing. Even their television was tuned to a channel in Poland. Jeff said the beer was fantastic and, "If it wasn't, I would not hesitate to let you know."

"The Polish lady," pictured above, is locally famous for her gardening skills. Mayor Rybak has toured her garden during a visit to the Eco Village. In the winter, she pages through her seed catalogs and dreams of her next garden.

The Polish lady is very dedicated to her Roman Catholic faith. In the picture above, note the "Black Madonna of Czestochowa," Poland's most revered icon.  

After dinner, Jeff played with the Polish couple's big Huskie, named Miko. They also have a small "back up dog" named Sparky. Jeff asserts that a big, fierce-but-lovable dog combined with a smaller "back up dog" is the perfect canine combination.

Now there's a cool dog toy: A rubber beer can. A dog could learn a valuable fetching skill from a toy like that! 

Above, Jeff tests our ongoing hypothesis: there is no family-friendly way to pose with a Polish sausage. As you can see from the photo above, the thesis is still solid.

Yup, the thesis is still solid.

Today, I went to the demolition site and rubble was still being hauled away. But on the public sidewalk, I found half a brick.

I picked up the broken brick and took it with me to add to my ever-growing North Minneapolis brick collection as a war trophy.

Yesterday was a bittersweet victory. But the battle to transform and revitalize North Minneapolis continues.

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