Monday, May 11, 2009

Hawthorne/Jordan "Clean Sweep" Was A Whole Lot Of Garbage! Photos of Neighborhood Revitalization Footsoldiers

Photos By John Hoff, Jeff Skrenes 

What is a neighborhood event without numerous photo opportunities? Here are some photos of the many participants in this successful yearly spring clean up. More to follow!

(Do not click "Read More")

Hawthorne/Jordan "Clean Sweep" Was A Whole Lot Of Garbage! The "Let's Roll" Elite Tire Unit Makes The Rubber Hit The...Well, The Back Of The Truck

Photos By John Hoff, Jeff Skrenes 

So here are a bunch of images from the Hawthorne/Jordan "Clean Sweep" activity over the weekend. The job of picking up discarded tires isn't...

...harder than the other rubbish picking, but it does require a couple of the more sturdy volunteers. I did tire picking along with Housing Director Jeff Skrenes, and our truck driver, Elliot, who had a great sense of humor. Often we ran off to document some situation needing attention from 311, and at the end of the day I sent off an email to 311 about 13 different properties. 

I've logged a lot of 311 calls in the past, but I don't remember making 13 on any particular day, so....PERSONAL BEST.

From top to bottom: me and my friend Jeff. Second, our truck driver, Elliot. Elliot joined us for lunch after we recovered approximately 68 tires, not counting small bike tires and pieces of tires. (We'd estimate and add up fragments into one tire, for record keeping)

In the third and fourth photo, Jeff demonstrates his tire-throwing style. Any excuse to wear a tank top and show off his muscles.

Fifth, Elliot uses the truck radio to call in some kind of mess in the alley, something requiring pick up by another truck. We called in one mess after another. Lots of mattresses.

The second to last photo shows our catch. As we were turning around, and taking a brief accidental foray into the McKinley neighborhood, we found a few more tires and added these to our total.

The last photo shows me with the trophy catch of the day.

Ain't she a beauty? I think I'll have it MOUNTED.

Hawthorne/Jordan "Clean Sweep" Was A Whole Lot Of Garbage!

The Hawthorne and Jordan Neighborhoods had very successful "Clean Sweep" clean up programs this weekend. The events were, in the strictest sense, different and separate. However, in spirit...

This was a cooperative effort between the neighborhoods. Hawthorne loaned money to the Jordan neighborhood (which is still trying to regain equilibrium in the wake of disastrous leadership failings) so Jordan could have a clean sweep event. One man bridged the gulf between the two events, and that was Jeff Skrenes, pictured above. (He's estimating whether that tire is within the "legal limit" or if we'll have to throw it back)

Not content with helping all morning as part of the elite "Let's Roll" tire recovery unit, Jeff went to the Jordan Neighborhood and helped out there, too.

In fact, Jeff took many of pictures of the Jordan cleanup, which will be shared here as I managed to get them up. I took a lot of pictures, too, but these were with Jeff's camera. Sometimes it's hard to even remember whose photo credit is whose. Our work is all mingled together noodles on a plate, for the greater good of the neighborhood.

Hopefully, our pictures will manage to capture most or many of the individuals who participated in the Clean Sweep activities.

Vacant House Boarding Times Have Become Super Fast!

Photos By John Hoff

o a few days ago I was talking about this house, and how it was open to trespass right across from a day care center, and how I was going to be TIMING IT after calling the problem in to 311.

Well, by my rough calculations...

This house at 712 24th Ave. N. got boarded within in a couple days of my call, probably no more than three but possibly within 48 hours. In fact, it has probably taken me longer to blog about it than it took to actually board it. if we could just get the house fixed up and occupied.

As a special blog bonus, here's a Stupid North MInneapolis Home Repair tossed in. Check out what's holding up that porch pillar! Quick, somebody, get me something more solid like...a phone book!

The Polish Lady Shows Her Faith in North Minneapolis

Photo By John Hoff 

Today, me and some of my NoMi friends went to look at a house which might be a good deal...or it might not. There was a lot of "just looking" going on. We who live in the neighborhood know better than anybody that the North Minneapolis housing market seems to have "bottomed out," and now is the time to buy, buy, buy.

We invited "The Polish Lady" to come along on this house-looking foray. The Polish Lady is the long-time resident of the Hawthorne Eco Village whose amazing garden and gritty determination to stay in the neighborhood often rates a mention on my blog...

The house was in a "pre trash out" state of being, (rather cluttered, to say the least) and the person showing the house had power of attorney and the ability to say, "Oh, sure, you can have's going to be thrown out anyway."

The Polish Lady saw a statue of a saint and wanted to rescue it, rather than risk the possibility the statue would be destroyed in the course of the house being trashed out. Here, she tenderly holds the saint in her hands for a moment. However, she decided to leave the statue behind because it had already been broken and repaired.

It is bad luck, she explained, if the statue is broken. So there was no sense taking it along.

Me, I guess I actually prefer a broken saint over one that is perfect.

But, like I often say, I attend "The Church Of The Dead Bolt Lock."

However, for the record...I have no idea what to make of that "glowing cone" which seems to be in the picture. The small, squarish object in the Polish Lady's hand is a light switch with a Christian message.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Heated Response From Merwin's Liquor About Their Druggie Loitering "Butt Fence" Situation

Photo By John Hoff 

Louis Dachis responded on behalf of Merwin's Liquors to things I was saying about their "butt fence" and how its bad design allows long-term loitering, and how Lt. Mike Sauro of the 4th Precinct had made mention of the situation at the most recent Hawthorne Huddle.

Those who want to enjoy the discussion and/or add more points should check out the comment threads on this post, sorry the link is not live.

(Do not click "

Here's What $7,900 Buys You In The Hawthorne Neighborhood

Photos By John Hoff 

Though much was written about the $7,900 house of Connie Nompelis (No-bell-iss, it's Greek) and no doubt more will be written, I realized none of my photos really showed...

...the spectacular woodwork. So here are a few more.

This woodwork wasn't even visible when Connie bought the house. It was beneath ratty gray carpet. The radiator in the background of the top photo is where I found the crack pipe while pulling carpet staples right before the "condemned house party." Connie bought the house on faith, and that woodwork in the living room was one of many rewards she reaped for having faith. 

Right now, a lot of people are wondering whether the market has "bottomed out" and whether it's finally the time to buy. I say the $7,900 house is like a barometer, and the weatherman is saying: BUY NOW OR LOSE OPPORTUNITIES LIKE THIS FOREVER!

What if there's that one special house that speaks to you, that feels like home from the moment you step across the threshold? What if you lose THAT ONE while hoping the market--already at bottom--bottoms out further?

Like America's founding fathers, Connie was willing to risk her "life, liberty and sacred honor" to buy an even bigger stake in a neighborhood we call NoMi, a place that is turning around much faster than mainstream media portrayals are managing to capture. She took a chance, plopped down her money, and this is the reward she reaped.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Photo By John Hoff 

At the last Hawthorne Neighborhood Huddle, Lieutenant Mike Sauro of the 4th Precinct discussed some increased police presence on Broadway, which will include cracking down in the area of Hawthorn Crossings, a location notorious for open air drug dealing.

In the course of that discussion...

...Sauro mentioned how the area around the parking lot for Merwin's Liquor has a deeply flawed design problem, because a low wall gives individuals a place to sit all day, hang out, and deal drugs. Sauro said if he had his way, the wall would be torn down. Sauro said if anybody knows the owner of that liquor store...well, it would be a good idea to have a little chat with him about how the fence around his property has become, in effect, seating space for dozens of no-accounts, crackheads, winos, and drug dealers.

That's my summary, not Sauro's. Sauro just mentioned how the constant "hanging around" is a problem, and how he wished the wall could be torn down and, well, maybe somebody who knows the owner could pass on the message.

I don't know the owner. But I'm sure passing on the message.

Just a few days ago, I saw a photo showing how Merwin's looked in 1974, advertising the SODA FOUNTAIN which used to be inside. Now they sell Mad Dog 20/20 to chronic inebriates which hang around like green bottle flies on rotting road kill. One of my first experiences in North Minneapolis was at Merwins, at night, and it left quite an impression.

How a mighty name in the neighborhood has come to mean so much less than it once did! If Mr. Merwin, the founder of that business, were alive today you have to wonder what he'd say. The Merwin's family name has come to represent a liquor store the size of a supermarket, with the dregs of society gathered closely around on a convenient stone ledge which seems DESIGNED for long term sitting. Would a liquor store DELIBERATELY DESIGN something to accommodate the habits of chronic loiterers, so the drunkards would stay near?

Perhaps not, but it seems to have worked out that way.

Hawthorne Housing Director Injured In Phonebook Mishap

Unwanted phone book dumping--which up to now has been merely annoying and environmentally unsound--has finally caused a serious injury in the Hawthorne Neighborhood of North Minneapolis. A couple days ago Jeff Skrenes--Hawthorne's dedicated Housing Director--was hit by a flying mass of phone books one physics expert estimated to have the approximate force of a falling old growth tree 30 feet in diameter.

Skrenes was....

...reported to be in critical condition, but still conscious and lucid enough to vow vengeance on behalf of the neighborhood association against companies like Dex.

"Read...Ed...Kohler' Deets," Jeff managed to whisper, through lips that were bloodied but still (according to one eyewitness) quite kissable. "Must...protest...must action."

In the wake of heated emotions in the neighborhood after the injury of Skrenes, there was loose talk of gathering up truckloads of phone books and taking them right back to where they came from, only in a much more rain-soaked condition than when they arrived, unwanted, on the steps of houses which have been vacant for as long as two years.

Could This Be The Legendary "Mortgage Geek Creature?"

Declassified Neighborhood Govt Photo 

A grainy cell phone photo has emerged of a creature--once thought to be mere myth and legend--said to inhabit a thick, arcane portion of the Hennepin County Government Center, where mortgage data can be accessed on public computers...

The creature is said to be so obsessed with mortgages that he can spot minor errors in data entry by checking out the spread in variable rates of interest, with his bare eyes, and he can dwell upon thorny thickets of mortgage data until most other creatures would black out and lose consciousness.

BUT SERIOUSLY, FOLKS...a few days ago, Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes gave me a task of accessing mortgage data for some homes in Hawthorne, many in danger of going into we need more of THAT.

Clearly, some individuals got VERY BAD DEALS on mortgages. Like, oh gee, a potential interest rate of 17 percent. (The Mortgage Geek Creature points out that's all they may have qualified for with their credit) But there are other instances where some kind of fraud seems to be between the lines.

In any case, the Hawthorne Neighborhood needed this data for an important presentation, and given the pressing time constraints, two people were needed to pull data before the Government Center closed. I was happy to help my neighborhood and, of course, when Jeff is talking about mortgages, he is jovial a librarian is jovial company when talking about her INDEXES.

There is no help for this sick puppy. Believe me, we have all tried.

Best to just tolerate Jeff's mortgage obsession and go with the flow, because his intense focus has done wonders for our neighborhood in the wake of the foreclosure crisis. This data may help us locate and save homeowners from foreclosure. It's a good thing we have a mortgage geek who understands the particulars of...well, I can't even remember the boring phrases involved, heaven help me.

But Jeff understands ALL of it. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

Willard-Hay Architect Firm Gets A Write Up In Metro Magazine

The owners of the "Silver Cocoon" architect and design firm have received mention in this article:

Congrats to Souliyahn Keobounpheng and Tia Salmela, fine NoMi neighbors! 

By the way, according to the article the name "Silver Cocoon" was derived from an RV which once functioned as their gallery and studio. 

(Do not click "Read More")

Reports of Drama-O-Rama At Northside Marketing Task Force

This Photo Has Nothing To Do With Anything...Or Does It? 

I am in possession of very detailed accounts of drama and power plays at a recent meeting of the Northside Marketing Task Force, which may now be in a state of two factions, both claiming to be the...

..."true" Northside Marketing Task Force.

I know you're all licking your chops in anticipating of yet another messy Northside soap opera, though it's pretty hard to compete with the blockbuster "New JACC City" drama. However, ya'll have to wait for two reasons.

First, tomorrow is the spring clean up. Check out the previous post. All this information is too much to post tonight, and tomorrow is spring clean up. Bottom line: it will have to wait. Time to pick up our neighborhood. ALL OUT, ALL OUT, ALL OUT FOR CLEAN SWEEP!

Remember, if it is miserable weather and you show up anyway, your status goes up accordingly within the neighborhood association. 

The second reason I'm holding off for now: I'm giving some individuals an opportunity to respond by email and tell their side of things, before I publish firsthand accounts including phrases like "the disgruntled Boy King" and making accusations of...well, what is the word that fits well?

Littering. When bits of paper hit the ground, that would be littering.

Police Chase Ends At 22nd and Dupont?

Photos By John Hoff 

I have incomplete information about a police chase ending at 22nd and Dupont. A few moments ago, at that location, I observed a sporty 2-door vehicle, maroon in color, appearing totaled...

The license plate of the vehicle is KMF 813.

The vehicle was in the middle of the intersection, being pulled onto a flat bed tow truck. From my vantage point, I could see one air bag on the passenger side had deployed. A police officer was standing nearby, interviewing an individual I would describe as a "solid citizen," but will not describe any further than that. It was apparent the citizen had information about what he/she had seen and that info was relevant to the police.

From my vantage point, I saw no evidence of injury to whoever was driving the vehicle. An ambulance was parked at the scene, but didn't appear to be DOING anything.

It appeared police cars were "fanning out" in the area and possibly looking for a suspect or suspects. Individuals in the neighborhood said the car had gone up on somebody's yard, but I didn't see any evidence of that. As the police were busy doing their jobs, I did not make inquires of them.

Thanks to the person who not only called me, but whose camera was in my possession and took these pictures.

POLICE CHASE ENDS AT 22nd and Dupont?

Rumor just came of a police chase ending with an accident at 22nd and Dupont...more to follow, but suspect(s) (description unknown) may be at large, police cars seen fanning out. Call police if you have info.

Do not click "


Photo By John Hoff

Tomorrow, Saturday May 9 is one of the most important events of the year in the Jordan and Hawthorne Neighborhoods: the spring clean up, which involves citizens going out in hardworking crews to pick up all the accumulated litter and trash they can find, some of it, interesting.

People wear gloves for this. Enough said.

Individuals who have obtained property in Hawthorne and Jordan--or who are actively trying to buy property and anticipate being super-involved in neighborhood activism, once they MEET everybody--should arrive with bells on to pull their portion of the collective burden and show their new neighbors what they are made of.

Hawthorne's event starts with a breakfast at the Farview Park building at 8 a.m., followed by everybody walking the streets at 9 a.m. And by "walking the streets" I mean in a good way, but did I mention people wear gloves? Yeah, I think I mentioned it.

The Jordan neighborhood's event starts later and ends later. Here is a non-live URL that will take you to the information about that event in Jordan.

This will not only be a cleanup but...

...a "sister neighborhood" event with Jordan, which has in effect borrowed money from Hawthorne to pull off its event in the wake of (alleged) financial shenanigans with the "Old Majority" executive board and former executive director, Jerry Moore, now actively involved in the Kenya McKnight city council campaign.

In addition to picking up litter, participants walking around on the street are known to get very active calling 311. Last year, the tough and gritty aspect of the Eco Village area was obvious to volunteers, but this year we have seen two months with no reported crime in the wake of extensive demolition in that part of Hawthorne, so it is anticipated litter pickup will go easier since "pro litter forces" are now in what might be best described as panicked headlong retreat, with a triumphant revitalization army hot on their heels.

Be there tomorrow! And, in response to the inevitable question which will arise in the wake of this blog posting: No, we will not be serving Wild Irish Rose with the 8 a.m. Hawthorne breakfast event.

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: "The Devil" Is Being Exorcised From 3020 6th St. N.

Photo By John Hoff

Word comes from a highly-placed and reliable source as follows: CitiMortgage no longer owns 3020 6th St. N. Somehow, they managed to unload that sucker on Deutschebank, which now owns this notorious Pandora's box of drug and prostitution evil, located in the very heart of our planned Eco Village utopia, THE NECESSARY FINAL PIECE IN THE PUZZLE OF OUR MASTER PLAN!!!!


There is good news, however....

The current owner, Deutschebank, and the current servicer, American Home Mortgage Servicing, are working closely and cooperatively with the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council to remain within the letter of the law while actively achieving the goal of throwing the crackhead scum out in the street. Legally.

This is my characterization, and not that of my source, who would never say "crackhead scum," even off the record, but would remain polished and professional.

This is what the people need to know: everything is going well. Have faith. Urban utopia is just around the corner and we've already seen two months with NO REPORTED CRIME in the Eco Village. With 3020 6th St. N. soon going down, now is the time for home owners to buy, buy, buy in the area near 3020 6th St. N.

"Adventures Of Johnny Northside" Television Special Preview At Yesterday's Hawthorne Huddle (Check Out The New Video Trailer!)

Stock Photo, Connie Nompelis Gives A Presentation

Members of the "612 Authentic" video team and their executive producer, Connie Nompelis (No-bell-iss) did a presentation at yesterday's Hawthorne Huddle. A trailer was shown for the upcoming "Adventures of Johnny Northside" television special, which was well received. Though video truth is not all flowers and gingerbread trim, there is a North Minneapolis story of struggle and revitalization which is definitely NOT being told in the mainstream media.

"The Adventures of Johnny Northside" will, hopefully, tell some of that story and kick start a lot of, er, catalytic discussion.

(Or did I mean to write "cataclysmic"?)

Even folks who follow this blog and are familiar with the movie project (see bottom of my blogroll) may not have seen this trailer, so... can check it out by going to the "production blog" at this URL.

And, by the way, no, I'm not done beating up on the mainstream media quite yet.

For years, publications like the Star Tribune gave lurid coverage to crime in the Eco Village area, which is a part of Hawthorne Neighborhood bounded by Lyndale Ave. N., 4th St. N., Lowry Ave. N., and 30th Ave. N. Many crimes used to take place in that area, and the media sure did cover that stuff in graphic detail. When the Apartment Complex of Anarchy was torn down at 3101 6th St. N., the media covered THAT, too, getting the story wrong to the point I had to write a blog post about "talking back to the Star Tribune."

Well, where is the media to cover the story I've been trumpeting on this blog about two straight months with no reported crime in the Eco Village, an area that was once considered "ground zero" for drug crime? For that matter, will it be necessary to sit around and wait for somebody to die in the parking lot at Hawthorn Crossings strip mall before the media comes along and says, gee, there's a real problem, here?

"Check out our producer as he pretends to be a suburbanite in an SUV interested in buying crack cocaine while we record on our hidden cameras...wait a second. That guy is trying to sell pirated DVDs. WHAT THE (EXPLETIVE)?"

Yeah, OK, that was a tangent...but if I don't have any new stories about open air drug dealing and pirate DVD sales at Hawthorn Crossings, I still have to find a way to write something and make this place my "blog bitch."

In any case...

Clearly, North Minneapolis must tell its own story through its own organically created forms of media. If we sit around and wait for OTHER media to present a more complex, nuanced picture...surely we will die of disappointment, old age, and broken hearts.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Vacant, Unsecured House Across From A Daycare Center

Like I said, I'm timing this one with a stop watch. I'm checking it DAILY to see how long it takes for this building to get secured after calling 311. Today when I went by, the front door was a single nail in one corner of the antique door.

There was a phone number from a property management company on the door. I called them. I mentioned the property being right across from a daycare center. I mentioned writing about the property on my blog. In every way I could, I tried to convince them to...

...make this property a priority and get it secured.

They made some promises. It was daylight as we spoke on the phone, but I'm worried those were promises made in the dark. So I'm going to just keep on top of this property.

Oh, look. PHONEBOOKS! Woo hoo.

Stand Up Franks Is Now...FRANKLESS!

Photos By John Hoff 

I was driving by the old Stand Up Franks the other day--the notorious booze hole trouble spot which I never had a chance to frequent before it was lost to the ages--when I noticed something had changed...

The "Stand Up Franks" sign was gone. Yes, the establishment had been de-frank-ified.

Rumor is the place will be closed for a while so all the old customer base goes away, then when it opens there will be a whole new theme to bring in a whole new crowd. Somebody in the Hawthorne Neighborhood Association put it this way: if they reopen too soon, they'll have the same crowd of chronic inebriates. The only thing that will change is the drunks will be drinking out of tiki cups.

I wonder what they did with the old sign?

No More Mail Collected Here: More Signs Of Deep Demographic Change In NoMi

Photo By John Hoff 

I was mailing a letter a few days ago, and I encountered yet another sign of the deep demographic change which has taken place in North Minneapolis due to foreclosures and associated vacancies. So deep are the demographic shifts, that a rather smart friend of mine asserts in the next census North Minneapolis might be no longer "majority black." One thing is for sure: this place has lost an incredible amount of population.

So one sees little signs of how much has changed. And here's one of those signs:

Next to the "super market" style liquor store at Lyndale Ave. N. and West Broadway, where no-account characters pretty much hang out in and around the parking lot all the time, loitering for no good purpose, there is blue post office box. I often use it because it is convenient.

Well, that won't be happening anymore....

An official notice on the box says the box will soon be removed, and it states the reason. Mail at that collection point has dropped off sharply.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...that things have deeply, irrevocably changed, and until the next census data rolls around, we can hardly reckon up what, exactly, the changes are.

Unsecured, Open To Trespass, And Being TIMED

Photo By John Hoff 

This house sits across from a day care center. The front door is wide open, decorated with an old "STOP WORK" order.

I called it in to 311 as a vacant, unsecured house. Now I'm timing that sucker with a stop watch.

Last year, after SOME citizens started taking things into their own hands under the city's "adopt houses" mandate, and doing what was necessary to secure our neighborhood against copper thieves, whores and crackheads, the official boarding process got a bit faster. It started taking a couple days instead of, oh gee, WEEKS.


But somehow I think... the last few months that increased speed, that sense of urgency has just evaporated. So it's time for a test. And this house, RIGHT ACROSS FROM A DAY CARE CENTER, is the test. I'll be watching this one, and if it doesn't get the attention it needs in a reasonable period of time, I'll be griping about it over and over.

In a related matter: Hawthorn Crossings strip mall continues to be a cesspool of open air drug dealing, with no on-site security evident, except meaningless "NO LOITERING" signs which may serve some function as back-scratchers, but appear to have no other function. I hear some important North Minneapolis names are associated with this strip mall and some of the businesses at that mall.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"True JACC" Lawsuit Grinds Forward, Shield Law Invoked Over (Alleged) Johnny Northside Emails!

Stock photo, Hennepin County Courthouse, Ben Those Coins  In The Fountain Aren't YOURS

Information continues to leak out of the "True JACC" lawsuit proceeding in tasty but un-filling little morsels, but if you put enough of those free samples together on a paper plate, it almost adds up to a meal. Here's what I'm hearing about depositions in this pointless proceeding in the battle of victorious "New Majority" JACC Board officers, versus the holdout Kool Aid Cult faction led by (it would appear) public figure Ben Myers. (Other defendants include the City of Minneapolis, NRP, MPD and, of course, my twin brother Ben Myers is suing our beloved mother in some kind of weird, separate "wrongful existence" lawsuit) (Parody alert)

First of all, the lawyers are having quite a few scheduling difficulties, and it appears hard to produce Jerry Moore for his deposition. The plaintiffs won't say WHY it's so hard to produce him, but, well...he's just hard to produce. He's very busy with something. BUT WHAT!?

Word is plaintiff Ben Myers was actually using his Blackberry while being deposed. Yeah, that's going to look really professional...WHEN THE VIDEOTAPE HITS YOUTUBE, BABY!!!!! Of course, it's not my twin brother's fault. He was born with that thing stuck to his ear. It's one of the reasons mom sent him away to live at the orphanage in Texas. (Outrageous political parody alert, in case it wasn't obvious to the THE LAWYERS)


...there are attempts being made to get emails between some members of JACC and little ol' me here at the Johnny Northside blog. That last sentence is not an admission any such emails even exist, but I'm not giving up my sources. Apparently, I won't have to worry about it. A brief by the defense is saying a journalist is covered by Minnesota's shield law. Yes, it would appear, even a blogger journalist who likes to write about his twin brother Ben's bed wetting problems.

In political parody world, I mean. Obviously.

Or do I?

No, really, that was more outrageous parody as well.

Like I used to tell my students at U of M School of Journalism and Mass Communication: if you ever have an opportunity to go to jail for refusing to reveal your sources, fight your way to the front of the line. They put your name on a plaque and then you do paid speaking tours. Well, something like that. Point is, it's glory that will last the rest of your life. A barren cell with jailhouse bologna sandwiches lasts just a few days or weeks in a lifetime, but your glory will be eternal. DO NOT REVEAL YOUR SOURCES.

The last little morsel of info FROM MY ANONYMOUS SOURCE, NYAH NYAH NYAH...and I guess I better spread it thin on a Ritz cracker to make it that the deposition videotape is sealed for now. But this appears to be only because the Judge hasn't seen it himself. How excited me and Ben's mother will be to tune into YouTube and see that little Benny Booger has finally figured out how to work the Blackberry instead of just shoving it in his shorts to enjoy the vibrations.

This blog (giggle) remains open to hearing information from all sides. But seriously. I do. That doesn't mean, however, I'll be sharing sips from the big cauldron of Kool Aid.

A MAGICAL NIGHT IN NoMi: Afterglow Of The $7,900 House Party! Last Of The Pictures, Pictures, Pictures!

Photo By John Hoff 

Last of the Connie Nompelis party pictures! Time for somebody else to buy an antique house for pocket change and throw a blow-out wine and cheese party!

Top photo, Connie ripping out nail studded carpet strips. Second, the...

...permit isn't for a party, it's for fixing the house. The next photo (taken at Connie's workplace) kind of says it all. Yes, Connie bought a $7,900 house recently. But these market conditions in North Minneapolis can't last forever, and property values will rebound with the economy.

The next three pictures teach an important lesson: don't judge a house by its porch! The one remaining "atlas pillar" is holding up the porch roof all by itself. There are people in our neighborhood a lot like this antique wooden pillar. What do we need? More people who want to be "pillars of the community."

Also, please note the tacky "fake antique trim" nailed above the front door. Connie told me I could rip it off with a crowbar, but I got busy eating smoked fish and chit-chatting. I did put in some hard work earlier in the afternoon, however, ripping out carpet staples and putting the staples in a bread pan I was returning to Connie.

The final image shows how far we've come: that mysterious stain on the vinyl of the back porch MIGHT be chicken blood, especially since it appears somebody was raising chickens in the back yard, at one time. (In fact, almost a year ago I called 311 on this house, repeatedly, for being vacant and I was very familiar with the property and evidence of chickens being raised on the porch)

So it MIGHT be chicken blood. Or it might not.

If you want to snap up a real estate diamond in the rough, you've got to deal with the rough.

A MAGICAL NIGHT IN NoMi: Afterglow Of The $7,900 House Party! Exclusive Images Of The "War Trophy" Crack Pipe! WHO IS THE MYSTERIOUS "ROBERT?"

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.