Monday, December 7, 2009

No More Air Hockey at MOA! Hawkman Rehab Tales...

Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photos by John Hoff

Ever since my tragic incident with the Dumpinator 3000, I've been rehabbing in various ways, including honing my reflexes at air hockey and hooping. Don't ask me why these two activities have been helpful; but my VA rep says unconventional learning has been proven successful elsewhere.

Some of this has proven useful. I recently hula-hooped long enough to earn a discounted haircut. (Really. This is one of the few parts that is NOT a parody.) Air hockey on the other hand, has been problematic...

During my therapy, I challenged John's son Alex to air hockey. I'd grown up playing the game and I consider myself to be rather good. I've also volunteered with kids from my church, and in my eight years of that, only one youth has ever beaten me. So even hampered by phone book injuries, I thought this would be another easy step towards recovery.

Boy was I wrong. I don't remember the score, but Alex SCHOOLED me. We're talking a "take me out behind the woodshed with the business end of a belt" kind of whooping. This wasn't even CLOSE.

(What surprises me even more, is that for some reason, John has failed to blog about this incident. He's normally pretty quick to point out when Alex is superior to his superiors at things. But I've looked and looked and the blog post just isn't there.)

So we returned to the mall ready for a rematch, and what happened? The air hockey table is GONE! Alex and I took out our mutual frustrations while playing this game. We did well enough to consistently score in the top ten, but there was no clear winner between us regarding ability or score. And what fun is there if you can't divide people up into winners and losers?

A rematch and more news about the Hawkman's recovery are coming soon...

Bangkok Market Value Meal!

Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

Much has been written about the delicious food that can be found at the Bangkok Market, but I am still in awe of this gem we have in Hawthorne. Like a lot of places, there is a $5 minimum if you want to use your credit/debit card. Since I rarely carry cash on me, I often have to wander the store just to find food expensive enough to get to that minimum.

Lately I've been eating various Laab dishes. Laab meat is prepared... grinding up beef, chicken, fish, duck, or other meats, and seasoned with lime, peppers, cilantro, and other Thai or Laotian ingredients. (A word to the wise: those serrano peppers are NOT for the faint of heart. You better have a high tolerance for spiciness if you mix those in with your dish.) I'm not sure what parts of the cow or bird get used in the "grinding up" process, but hey, it can't be much worse than lunch meat, right?

I've been trying different Laab dishes, and I think I like the duck the best. I'm reminded of a story I've told before, but I've searched the blog and can't find it anywhere. Back when we had to deal with rampant (but now non-existent) crime in the EcoVillage, John and I would stop at the Bangkok Market, grab a bite, and eat while watching the Sentry, the Devil, and other characters at 3020 6th St N.

Well, we were telling the owner about this blog, and how we like to promote neighborhood businesses. We weren't trying to scam any free food, but some businesses do offer freebies when we pitch this line. The owner didn't seem overly impressed. But then I explained what we were going to do while eating, and finished with the line, "Your food sustains us while we go out and make the neighborhood safer."

THAT got his attention. He immediately went and got us a batch of sticky rice, and explained how to use it to scoop up the laab meat. The technique looked rather similar to how tortillas are used in Central America, although I still haven't perfected using the rice that way. But the behavior of the owner was notable: promoting his own business was secondary to making his neighborhood safe. I remember that every time I get a meal from here.

And the best part is the price, which I intentionally left visible in the photos above. This meal cost $7.00 and there's enough to keep you full for both lunch and supper. That's roughly what you'd pay to fill up on fast food "value meals" in our neighborhood, only this is MUCH better for you.

Delicious, healthy, and cheap food can be found at Hawthorne's Bangkok Market!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Local D'Lish Picks Up Where Mill City Farmers Market Leaves Off In Winter...

Photo by John Hoff

Metro Magazine recently recognized Local D'Lish, an organic and local foods store in North Loop which is owned and managed by Ann Yin of the Jordan Neighborhood, for its winter farmers market. Click here for the Metro Magazine article.

(There may actually be another article in Metro Magazine that goes into more detail about the incredible edible Local D'Lish, but so far I haven't found that article online. Readers, feel free to post links) 

The popular Mill City Farmers Market doesn't go through winter but, as pointed out by Metro Magazine, Local D'Lish picks up where the Mill City Farmers Market leaves off.

Ann Yin is pictured above, with a case of TEN DIFFERENT KINDS OF ROOT BEER, which she gave me as a present for my recent birthday. Since too many miles and too much trucker food have helped me pack on the pounds, I'm hitting the diet and exercise hard, lately. So I told Ann Yin that I'm setting the root beer aside as a reward for hitting my "goal weight." 

Thanks again, Ann Yin and Local D'Lish.

(Do not click "Read More")

Cleaning Up Around The Jordan Pond...

Photos By John Hoff

So it was another great visitation weekend with my son, but as usual I was scrambling for good father/son activities instead of letting Alex play on the computer all day...which he will do, if I let him get away with it.

Since there were no more slummy "We Buy Houses" signs on the boulevards to pluck up and burn, we walked around the Jordan Pond and...

...Alex picked up a big bag full of litter, all by himself. We also found some remnants of crime scene tape from the shooting incident which happened near 2700 Morgan Ave. N. We don't need stuff like that around to be seen by impressionable would-be residents looking for great deals on houses, so we cleaned up those remnants.

I keep thinking what a great idea it would be to make that plastic tape from biodegradable corn starch polymer. Oh, well.

One thing at a time. Yesterday, that thing was picking up the litter.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What's Cooler Than A Cool Bar? A Cool Bar With A Bullet Hole...

Photo By John Hoff

A couple weeks ago, while I was at Council Member Don Samuels' victory party--call it the "final victory party," if you will--which was held at Club Jager, one of the party guests pointed out a bullet hole in the ceiling of the bar and told me to ask the bartender for the story.

Well, it turns out...

...the first bartender had no idea what I was talking about and looked at me like I must be intoxicated. (For the record, I was a designated driver that night, unlike--for example--THIS night, click here) But the second bartender actually knew the origin of the bullet hole.

He said back in the "old days" (whenever THAT was) the bouncers would sometimes fire their guns into the ceiling to make rowdy patrons clear the bar. Good to know! Looking around, however, I could only find the one bullet hole and not multiple bullet holes. But it was dark, so perhaps there really are more.

I figured the story of the Club Jager bullet hole must be online somewhere, but I did some searching and, to my surprise, I found nothing. So I thought I'd make a point of documenting and preserving the story.

By the way, if you've never been to Club Jager then be assured the club is very peaceful and not a "thug bar." One nice feature of the bar is a fenced in back yard with a fire pit and plenty of wood. One of these times, I swear, I'm smuggling in a pack of weenies.

Battling Graffiti On The New Northstar Line...

Photo by John Hoff

Jeff Skrenes--who, a moment ago, posted video about the most recent Hawthorne Huddle--passed on some information which was related to him at that meeting from County Commissioner Stenglein, which Stenglein asked SPECIFICALLY for Jeff to pass on to Johnny Northside.

It turns out that before the new Northstar Rail Line was fully up and running, County Commissioners and other dignitaries took a ride on the planned route...

Naturally, they saw the incredible amount of graffiti along the route which I complained about in a previous blog post, click here. And, of course, these public officials said, "Something needs to be done about all that graffiti!" So, as it turns out, the Northstar route was scrubbed clean of graffiti shortly before it opened.

However, faster than crabgrass the graffiti came back, and now it looks as bad as ever. Word is the authorities are determined to clean up the graffiti on the route and will be making a renewed effort.

Personally, I submitted an email to 311 complaining about graffiti along virtually the entire Northstar rail route. If I ride the Northstar and see graffiti, I will do that again. And again. And again. I hope other public-spirited citizens who ride the Northstar and see graffiti would continue to report it as well.

For that matter, heck, call it in while you're on the BUS LINE. What else is there to do while riding the bus?

Hawthorne Huddle Celebrates Neighborhood Achievements!

Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, video by a Hawthorne neighbor

On Thursday, December 3rd, the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council celebrated many achievements in our community at the Hawthorne Huddle, sponsored by the General Mills Foundation. Every first Thursday of the month, community leaders and residents gather at Farview Park at the crack of dawn (7:30, to be precise). A continental breakfast is served (catered by the Sunnyside Deli), and we get to hear about and discuss what many of our partners are doing in and around Hawthorne.

But once a year, we roll out the red carpet...

At the end of the year, a full break fast, including omelets, sausage, and hash browns, is served. Neighborhood partners, many of whom receive support from the General Mills Foundation, share their successes from the past year and their goals for the next.

The video above is of yours truly, Hawkman alter-ego Jeff Skrenes, discussing some of the many accomplishments of the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council over the past year. My normal camera was out of juice, but luckily I carry a Blackberry in my utility belt, and used the video feature there for the first time.

In case folks don't watch the full video, I want to repeat my closing remarks: What we have accomplished would not have been possible without the vision and resolve of our residents, as well as the support of many of our partners in the room. So I sincerely thank all of you for making our neighborhood a success.

Also, I should point out that I specifically had the South Hawthorne Community Garden in my notes to talk about how great that and our residents who made it happen are. As SOON as I was done, I realized I'd forgotten to bring that up. I started thinking to myself, "Please, PLEASE let one of our neighbors bring this up," and sure enough Carey Joe Howell did. In some ways it's more appropriate that a resident brought up the garden, since the work was driven much more by the community itself than Hawthorne staff.

Paul Yeager from Farview Park also spoke about how the sports teams for our park fill up faster than those at other north and northeast parks. Obviously working with kids presents a special sort of challenge, but it's also incredibly rewarding and Paul is a tremendous asset to our community. He finished his remarks by saying to General Mills and the community, "Thank you for making my job fun." No, Paul, THANK YOU for what you give to our community.

Ellen Luger of General Mills made sure that the first people to present their accomplishments for 2009 were local youth who worked on a "Visuals in Peace" project. These were youth whose lives were touched by gang and other youth violence and got together to do what they could to counter that. They were inspired by Desmond Tutu last year and worked with many institutions to put up the banners we see along West Broadway.

I have heard both positive and negative things about how those banners look. But I think we can all agree that the spirit and collaboration behind those banners is exactly what our community needs. This is especially true knowing that the project was driven by our own youth.

So from Jeff Skrenes, the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council, and the johnnynorthside blog, a sincere thank you goes out to the General Mills Foundation, our community partners and our strong and committed residents for all that you have do for Hawthorne and NoMi!

Wafana's Moving Toward Demolition...

Photos By Jeff Skrenes

A couple nights ago, the Hawthorne Housing Committee approved $20,000 to be used toward the cost of demolition of the old Wafana's store on Lyndale Ave. N.

This building used to be what some North Minneapolis residents refer to as an "inconvenience store," which is a business where thugs hang out, crimes take place, and sometimes stolen goods are sold. An "inconvenience store" is more of a hindrance than a help to the neighborhood and this is exactly what Wafana's was, kind of like the old Uncle Bill's store in the Willard-Homewood. (Note how Urban Dictionary Dot Com has a different definition, click here)

This decision to allocate $20,000 awaits ratification by Hawthorne's board. However...

It appears the Wafana's building is riding the greased-up skids to Demolition City and I say BON VOYAGE AND GOOD RIDDANCE.

2222 4th Ave. N. To Be Demolished...

Photos by Jeff Skrenes

Word came first from Jeff Skrenes, the "Hawthorne Hawkman," and was confirmed by an email from Council Member Hofstede which was forwarded by Hawthorne resident Michael Klick.

The house at 2222 4th Ave. N. will be demolished. The council voted today, unanimously. This property is virtually cursed...

It was the place where the dead, frozen body of Annshalike Hamilton was discovered. This murder is still unsolved and anybody with information should contact the Minneapolis Police Department.

Attempts have been made to rehab and rehabilitate the property, but the attempts were slum-lordy and half-hearted, not meeting the standards of the neighborhood or public officials. Apparently, when Mahmood Khan bought his properties, he was under the impression North Minneapolis operated something like the "Wild West" and he could get away with having crappy rental properties left to sit for months and years.

These photos were taken just hours ago by Jeff Skrenes, to show the current condition of the property. Compare with, for example, this image from some time ago, click here.

Wannabe slumlords can look at the example of Mahmood Khan and 2222 4th Ave. N. and take note: this slumlord stuff no longer flies in North Minneapolis, particularly in the Hawthorne Neighborhood.

JNS BLOG SORTA EXCLUSIVE: Images Of The (Alleged) Crooks Whose Actions Killed A Police Dog...

First and foremost, these images are mug shots and therefore in the public domain. Anybody who wants to reproduce these photos on a blog or t-shirt or whatever is free to do so. Don't feel like you have to ask me. Take the pictures and run.

Second, the "front view" mug shots were already published on Fox9, click here, but the photos used by Fox9 included only the front view, not the side view. And I think readers will really want to check out...

...that spiffy tattoo sported by Jesse Luna, 37, or the way Tina Gerber, 30, looks like she has five o'clock shadow over her lip; not just from the front angle but also from the side.

The next time a police dog chases Jesse Luna--and I'm sure there will be a next time, unless he suddenly and unexpectedly gives his life to Jesus or something--I hope that police dog clamps on right on that oh-so-tempting tattoo of, well, bones. 

If I were a police dog, I'd find that tattoo impossible to resist. 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Peter Teachout's Army Swearing-In, More Photos...

Photos By John Hoff and Jeff Skrenes

Here are more photos from today's army swearing-in of Peter Teachout, former Chair of the Hawthorne Neighborhood Association, discussed in my previous blog post.

(Do not click "Read More")

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Peter Teachout, Former Chair Of The Hawthorne Neighborhood, Swore Into The Army Today...

Peter Teachout, the former chair of the Hawthorne Neighborhood Association who helped guide the organization through challenging and difficult times--including the "taming of the Eco Village"--swore in to the army today as an officer.

The ceremony was held at...

...the Bishop Whipple Federal Building on Fort Snelling, on the third floor. The video you see here is the only video of the ceremony, apologies for the quality of the audio.

Peter was joined by a group of friends and family which was considered rather large by the standards of a Military Entry Processing Station, so much so that officials at the station were willing to accommodate a swearing-in late in the day simply because so many visitors had arrived. The gathering was heavy with residents of North Minneapolis, including Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes, myself, Megan Goodmundson of the Jordan Neighborhood, Peter's brother and sister-in-law (Mike and Sarah) who live in the Jordan Neighborhood, and Peter's pastor and his wife who live in Old Highland.

The captain who conducted the swearing-in spoke of his own experiences in the military and the value of army training in developing leadership. After the swearing-in, the Teachouts had a dinner celebration at their home on Lyndale Ave. N.

Peter does not ship out for training until July of 2010. The Teachouts own three properties in North Minneapolis and have no plans to leave any time soon. Peter is hoping to serve in a military intelligence unit.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pioneering The Neighborhood Bar Crawl...How Many "Ultra-Neighborhood" Bars Can YOU Name?

Photo By John Hoff and contributed photo, xoxo

Yesterday I hit a NoMi bar and grill I'd never visited before, and arrived just in time for half price appetizers. (Why are they called "appetizers," I wonder? After I eat four of them, I'm full) The bar is called "The Loop" and it's in the heart of the North Loop Neighborhood at 606 Washington Ave. N.

This got me thinking: how many Minneapolis restaurants and bars are named after the neighborhood in which they reside? And if the number is relatively small--say, a dozen or so--could you hit them all in one night?

I can think of one other "ultra-neighborhood bar," which is the...

...Victory 44 bar in the Victory Neighborhood. Off the top of my head, that's the only one I can name BESIDES The Loop.

Obviously, by "ultra-neighborhood" bar I mean a place that is actually NAMED for the neighborhood in which it resides. Stuff like the "Fourth Street Grill" doesn't count, of course. Besides, when I say "bar crawl" I don't mean crawling to medical assistance after getting hit by gunfire. Why the Fourth Street Bar is still open after so many disturbing incidents is a deep and abiding mystery.

So, anyway, I should say a few more words about The Loop. First of all, the food is delicious and affordable and the atmosphere is friendly and laid back. (Johnny Northside ultra-frankness font: this place hasn't been taken over by the thug crowd, thank god)

The Loop had fried calamari as an appetizer, something I've been missing on the Victory 44 menu for quite a while. The fried calamari was the ENTIRE calamari, including tentacles, not just "squid rings." I thought it was BETTER than the stuff they used to have at Victory 44.

The coconut chicken and the crab cakes were also quite good. The crab cakes were made to look like--incredibly--rambutan fruit.

I was amazed to see the bar's extensive floor is real wood--maple, I think--and the bar is notable as the largest 360 degree bar in Minneapolis. In the photo above, "Briana" poses at the bar. She said her name is spelled like "Brian" with an extra "a" on the end. The bottom photo is a portrait of me, shot through a half-full wine glass.

Did I mention today is my birthday? HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! I have everything I could ever want in my son, Alex.

R.I.P. "Officer" Chase...You Will Be Missed (Part Two Of Two)

Photos By John Hoff
The place where "Officer" Chase died reminds me of the old cop show Hill Street Blues and its opening intro. A call goes out from the dispatcher about a robbery taking place at the "surplus store, corner (of) People's Drive." And--slipping and sliding in wintery slush--police cars rush to answer the call. Without a moment's hesitation, they are risking their lives, and for what? The money and goods at some crappy surplus store, on the corner of some crappy street.

These are the places where good police officers die; not in marbled hallways protecting high-ranking public officials, not at important state dinners between the salad and the, police die in the hidden, unnoticed dark holes of our society, in thefts and disputes involving next-to-nothing. So it was "Officer" Chase went down, in pursuit of three (likely) crackhead nobodies, trying to steal copper from an empty, unused auto dealership...allegedly. It was another police canine that tracked down the no-accounts, hiding inside the ductwork of the filthy rats.

A friend and I bought flowers and a doggy bone for "Officer" Chase today; blue poinsettias because blue is...

...the color of police. The flowers are dyed, of course--they start out as white poinsettias and then somebody adds dye and, actually, some glitter--but the flowers still look pretty cool and, to reiterate, they are BLUE. We also obtained a doggy bone. Cub Foods didn't have a bone that was thug-flavored, but we found a nice lamb- flavored bone. And it was bronze-colored, a color associated closely with valor and service.

We halfway expected to arrive at the empty building and find a bunch of flowers already there. But, as it turned out, we were the first. We couldn't figure out where, precisely, "Officer" Chase went down so we picked a visible, busy corner with a nice ledge at the intersection of 1st Ave. N. and 2nd Street N.

Some Downtown Ambassadors came by, and seemed to like the flowers so, it appears, leaving flowers and doggy bones and stuff is, you know, COOL with the authorities. If I had my way, there would be a STATUE there. I'm just saying.

While we were nearby, we noticed some graffiti on a utility box. Asking ourselves, "What would "Officer" Chase do?" we...

OK, we didn't URINATE on the utility box, but we DID call 311.

R.I.P. "Officer" Chase...You Will Be Missed (Part One Of Two)

Photo By John Hoff
This morning, I was at a friend's house and her dog barked, suddenly. It was his urgent bark, his "action on the block" bark. We looked out the window--just as we'd looked out the window a few days before and saw the "amubulatory urinator"--I tell ya, you never know what you're going to see when you just look out the window as our neighborhood undergoes radical, positive transformation slash revitalization.

In any case, we looked out the window and...

...the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department was making its move on a nearby house on Newton Ave. N. They had a cop with a dog in the back, (see photo, above) and two squads of officers in the front.

Now, before I go on with this story, I want to say a few words about "Officer" Chase, a brave police dog who went down in action a few days ago. The death of this dog saddened me and my friends. In fact, in the next hour, we're going to buy some flowers and a big ol' doggy bone to leave as a memorial to "Officer" Chase near the site of his death. We figure if thugs can leave memorials to their dead in public places, heck, we should leave some kind of memorial for this police dog.

When my friend gets sad about the dog--actually bursting into tears--all I can really say is that he died a warrior's death, and warriors go to Valhalla. Chase is in a good place, with other brave warriors who have gone before him.

So, well, just last night we were talking and drinking at "The Loop" bar, talking about "Officer" Chase and how we should get some flowers or something. And this morning a police dog mysteriously appears at a nearby house, bearing an uncanny resemblance to "Officer" Chase. My friend has never, ever seen police go back there with a dog, and she has lived here for seven years. So we figure, hey, it's like a sign. "Officer" Chase is still with us, still on patrol, still hunting down the bad guys.

We often credit the police and public officials for helping to clean up our neighborhood. Well, these police dogs are doing more than their fair share. Here's a public thank you to all the brave police dogs and their skilled handlers.

In regard to the Hennepin County officers who were busy on Newton Ave. N. this morning, they appeared to come up empty-handed. Based on what I observed, it was my suspicion they were looking for a fugitive.

But I'm confident that, eventually, they'll get their guy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Birth Of An Urban Legend! THE AMBULATORY URINATOR!

Photo By John Hoff

A couple days ago, a friend and I were at the house near the Jordan Pond when we saw an amazing sight from the living room window. A young man dressed in an M&M jacket was walking down the street and urinating at the same time. If you must know the clinical details, he sort of angled the urine stream off to the left so he wouldn't walk in his own puddle. And, yes, he was walking forward; not backward.

It's hard to estimate the water pressure, but I'd say he had about a three foot stream going at his max.

And he was just walking like that, oh-so-casual, not stopping or making use of any urban ground cover to hide his bodily function; like ambulating and urinating at the same time was as common as walking and chewing gum. I managed to snap a picture when he was a good ways down the street.

We called the police, of course...

...and you might think "the ambulatory urinator" could have been tracked down easily enough, but somehow he managed to elude authorities and (one suspects) continue his crime spree.

And, really, in a sense it's for the best. I mean, about a year ago I was getting a lot of milage writing about Khameron "The Shitter" Lake who once haunted the alleys of the Eco-Village with his notable habit of taking a dump WHEREVER and using an ENTIRE SHIRT to clean up. But Khameron doesn't seem to be around anymore and we've completely turned the Eco Village around.

So here we have a new character who suddenly, dramatically appears and then mysteriously disappears into (as it were) the steaming mists of urban legend...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Even More Foreclosures Hitting North Minneapolis...

Photos By John Hoff

Talk of a "second wave" of foreclosures appears to be panning out as predicted. A couple weeks ago, I was at a friend's house on 23rd Ave. N., and a guy drove up to sling some paper on the door. After he left, we checked out the paper and, sure enough, it was yet another foreclosure.

Of course, that was when we discovered the door to the house was unsecured and made a 311 call. I have to say, the people who lived at that house were...

...real no-accounts, though certainly not the worst-of-the-worst, and not filthy in their living habits. They tossed a real nice little blue nightstand on the curb when they left, which I snatched up and put to good use. I even gave the nightstand a little pet name, and maybe some day I'll say what that name is.

Also, just today, I saw another foreclosure notice hit the door of a house on Bryant Ave. N.

Based on my anecdotal observations, the "second wave" of foreclosures does appear to be hitting.

But I say that's also a "second wave of bargains" for new homeowners in NoMi.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

311 The Hard Way...The Sequel!

Photo by John Hoff

It was back in June, back during the first days of extended summer visitation with my son, that I made a 311 complaint about a building I could see along the light rail line...but it was tough to figure out the address. I blogged about it in a post about doing 311 "the hard way," click here for that blog post.

Well, months later the building is once again covered in graffiti. It was about a week ago when I was heading out to see a friend who works in Bloomington, and I snapped another photo from the light rail. Then, while I was out in Bloomington, I got a call about cargo stranded in Tucson and (for lack of a better word) orders to proceed to the Minneapolis International Airport, immediately, and go to Tucson.

So the issue of the graffiti on the building was laid aside for a while, until I got around to downloading photos tonight showing, among other things, Apache Indian reservations.

Fortunately, my blog serves not ONLY as a blog, but a kind of electronic file cabinet. So I searched "311" and "hard way" on my own blog to pull up the reference number for this report, which is 264479. And I sent another report by email.

This building is my "311 bitch" and no matter how many times the graffiti appears, I'll be submitting a 311 report. So it might be best for the owners of the building to just paint over the graffiti as it happens or, (gee) get some security.

(Do not click "Read More")

Photographic After Party, Peace Ball, Photos By Pat Carney...

Photo by Pat Carney

Pat Carney--a marketing guru whose office is based in North Minneapolis--took some amazing photos at the Peace Ball and tossed the photos on his website. And, yes, he told me about this a while back and sent a link by email, click here, but I was driving all over the country, picking up cargo, letting my email build up like barnacles on the hull of an electronic ship.


This photo is my favorite. Here, former city council president Jackie Cherryhomes makes a mockery of the "puppet master" image which was promulgated during the unsuccessful campaign against Council Member Don Samuels, a cartoony visual assertion that Jackie Cherryhomes was somehow "pulling the strings" of Don Samuels.

You know, crude cartoons and whisper campaigns may work at the student government level, but in elections run by grown-ups that kind of thing doesn't get you very far. I'm just saying.

(Do not click "Read More")

Standards Are Slipping For Shoes On Power Lines...

Photo By John Hoff

Yesterday, Jeff Skrenes (the Hawthorne Hawkman) and I went out and took a bunch of illegal signs off utility poles, which resulted in a festival of bloggy videography. (And when I say "festival," you better believe there's a pinata involved)

While going after the signs, we came upon a pair of shoes kind of, sort of hanging on a power line. The shoes were actually...

...on the power pole "guy wire," and not the power line itself. They weren't very high up, so it was a relatively easy matter to push them down with a broomstick and undo the laces.

I didn't know whether to be happy or a little sad to see the standards for "shoefiti" slipping so much.

New Winterization Rules Hit Vacant Minneapolis Properties...

Photo by John Hoff

A couple weeks ago, I started noticing a new kind of official notice hitting the doors of vacant properties in North Minneapolis. As regular readers know, official placards get me all excited like a new bird gets a bird watcher excited, like a rare coin excites a coin collector. A NEW KIND OF OFFICIAL NOTICE? Be still, my foolish heart!

The new notices concern the winterization of vacant properties, and basically inform the property owner that...

They'd better winterize their property, or the city will do it for them.

At first when I saw the notices, I was glad. Absentee banks and irresponsible property owners who have gone belly up are doing great damage to North Minneapolis housing stock, simply by ignoring properties and leaving houses to be ravaged by the elements; whether it be weather or copper thieves.

However, my continued observations and conversations with sources lead me to wonder how effective the winterization program is. I see notices slapped on houses that I know for a fact were vacant last year at this time. (And how time flies! I remember winterization stories from November 2008, click here for an example)

I ask you, dear readers, what is the point of winterizing a house that has been vacant for years? The damage is already done. Maybe gaining entry to the property is useful in a regulatory way, and "winterization" is just a good excuse to get inside. In that case, I wish the city luck with all their future endeavors.

And, hey, at least the effort has produced a cool new placard for a small, obscure group of Northside hobbyists you might call "paper watchers."

Notorious "Brown House" At 2651 Logan Gets Boarded...

Photo By John Hoff

Yesterday, the notorious "brown house" at 2651 Logan Ave. N. was boarded up by a contractor. This house has been the subject of repeated police raids and at least one other boarding effort. When there was a shooting near 2700 Morgan Ave. N., residents immediately pointed fingers at the brown house and called for action from public officials, including Don Samuels.

It appears these public officials have acted and--measured by government standards--with amazing speed. THANK YOU, MINNEAPOLIS PUBLIC OFFICIALS!

(Do not click "Read More")

Insight News Keeps A Low Profile When It Comes To Post-Election Editorials...

Photo By John Hoff, on the Northstar Line

After the November election, in which Council Members Don Samuels and Barb Johnson wiped the floor with their opposition, some of us were eagerly waiting to see what kind of editorial would appear in the pages of Insight News. After all, Insight News had vigorously supported Kenya McKnight and, for good measure, Natalie Johnson-Lee and "woman abuser" Lennie Chism. (Plus Troy Parker, who lost to Barb Johnson) Insight News had printed some of the most vile and disgusting anti-Don Samuels rhetoric, taking race-baiting to a whole new level.

But Kenya's vote totals were abysmal--just over fifteen percent--and Don Samuels won the election handily, actually becoming the first public official in Minneapolis to win through second round IRV voting, quite a historical footnote.

So those of us who are informed and follow neighborhood issues closely just had to wonder what kind of egg-on-face editorial would follow the election? Would Insight News say something along the lines of, "Oh, well, good job,'s some issues we hope you will pay heed to in the next four years?" Or would Insight News cry foul and write some kind of bitter, whiney, pro-loser editorial? (Kind of like the Mpls Mirror?)

Whatever Insight News was going to write, I could hardly wait to read it! After all, it's not easy to say something articulate and graceful after embarrassing oneself so completely. Would Insight News be up to the challenge? Well, as it turns out...

No, Insight News was not up to the challenge. Once the election results were finalized and one might expect some kind of editorial, all Insight News had to offer was valuable advice on completely thawing and cooking your Thanksgiving turkey. Meanwhile, Don Samuels was actually out in the trenches helping to pass out turkeys at Cub Foods.

The strategy of Insight News appeared to be this: say as little as possible, so people will forget more quickly how wrong Insight News was in its hype about Kenya McKnight or, for that matter, in the decision to ignore all the troubling facts around Lennie Chism and just treat him as though he had creditability. In fact, Insight News talked about Lennie bringing "firepower" to the debates. (In fact, Lennie is not allowed to possess a firearm due to his legal problems with abusing a woman) So you have to wonder whether the "firepower" remark was some kind of Freudian slip.

One of my friends who closely follows Northside politics offered this observation. Four years ago, Insight News actually endorsed Don Samuels late, late in the election after mostly beating a drum of racial contention. After the endorsement, Don won the election. So perhaps Insight News got an ego-stroking notion that their endorsement MATTERED. So this election cycle, Insight News not only endorsed Kenya McKnight very early in the race, but sometimes actually seemed to be more involved in her campaign than Kenya herself.

(Word is McKnight expense reports are still being sought to see how those large ads were paid for week after week in the pages of Insight News)

How can any of us forget that excruciating moment at the Fifth Ward DFL Convention when Insight News publisher Al McFarlane spoke so long at the podium about Kenya McKnight, that McKnight herself had 37 seconds to make a speech?

In any case, just because Insight News endorsed Don Samuels four years ago, and Samuels won four years ago, doesn't mean there's a cause-and-effect relationship between the two events. After all, this blog made endorsements and most of our endorsements won, with the sole exception of Park Board candidate Michael Guest; who still made quite a strong showing. But a successful endorsement doesn't cause victory so much as it merely shows a media entity is in tune with the pulse of the majority of voters.

The conclusion, therefore, is inevitable: Insight News is severely out of touch with the pulse of North Minneapolis. Insight News vigorously endorsed what turned out to be a fringe candidate. And as for Lennie Chism, well, the man is a criminal and yet Insight News served him up like he was the greatest thing since...since...smokeless gunpowder.

When readers eagerly expected a post-election editorial, Insight News said nothing. (But did give valuable turkey preparation tips, let's not forget that) Their awkward, guilty silence speaks volumes. And that awkward, guilty silence should not go unremarked. Insight News tore open gaping wounds in the social fabric of North Minneapolis, printing ugly things about a decent man who has helped to turn our neighborhood around. Insight News has much to answer for.

One wonders when the answer will hit the pages of this "dead tree media" or will the awkward, guilty silence go on forever?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"These Are Scammers And Predators And We're Going To Take Their Signs Down"

This was the first video made by Jeff and I documenting our removal of illegally-placed signs on utility poles in the Hawthorne Neighborhood. Because it is our first video, it's a little awkward and, well, the sign actually flies off the pole--sails like a paper airplane--and hits me in the face. Imitating Marsha Brady from the Brady Bunch, I say, "Oh, my nose!"

Like I mentioned in the video...this is how tragedies happen.

(Do not click "Read More")

Knocking Down Utility Pole Signs (Let's Have That One Stuffed And Mounted!)

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...

Oh, wait, that's not true anymore. Anyway, here's more fun "knocking down utility pole signs" from the Hawthorne Neighborhood, featuring Jeff Skrenes, a.k.a. the Hawthorne Hawkman.

(Do not click "Read More")

More Fun "Knocking Down Signs" Video In The Hawthorne Neighborhood...

So here's more video! Knocking down signs placed illegally on utility poles, careful not to make a loud gunshot-like sound and set off the shot spotter!

(Do not click "Read More")

New Party Game Invented In NoMi--UTILITY POLE SIGN PINATA!

Pulling up boulevard signs and burning them was fun for a while, but it started to grow me and Jeff Skrenes (the Hawthorne Hawkman) invented a new activity.

Utility pole sign pinata!

In this video, Jeff demonstrates pretty decent pinata marksmanship. Except, like innumerable other online pinata videos...

Jeff keeps WHACKING at the pinata even after the candy has fallen out, and the other kids are scrambling for it.

But that's OK, because I got most of the candy.

What can we do NEXT to illegal boulevard and utility pole signs?

I'm thinking...water boarding.

Riding The New Northstar Rail Line (Didn't Anybody Think To Clean Up The Graffiti?)

Last weekend my son, Alex, and I took a trip on the new Northstar rail line to Big Lake, Minnesota. It was the same weekend we deforested the grassy boulevards of NoMi, yanking up every wooden "We Buy Houses" sign in sight. (On Thanksgiving weekend, we made a splendid bonfire and roasted marshmallow Peeps) 

The trip on the Northstar was fun and memorable...and pretty cheap, too. If you're a service-connected disabled vet, you can ride for free. The line starts at the new Twins Stadium, Target Field, which is in North Minneapolis. (NoMi) I swear, every time I turn around this place is becoming even cooler.

Two things remained with me from the trip:

1.) Wow. Great rail line. I'm looking forward to actual fun destinations popping up along the route, so I have an excuse to go to Big Lake, Fridley, Elk River or Anoka. Otherwise, the trip is incredibly anti-climatic, especially Big Lake. The rail line ends in a parking lot, near a field where there is actually agricultural irrigation equipment in sight. You get to the end of the line and have a feeling of, OK, what now? (See photo, above)

The Orient Express it IS NOT. But wouldn't it be cool if all the local farmers established weekend farmers' markets all along the train route? At the very least, I'd like to see a few signs explaining why I should bother getting on a bike and riding to, for example, downtown Fridley. What can I buy there? Candy? Antiques? A movie? From the train station, I can't see much reason to venture out.

2.) Good grief. When the rail line was launched, didn't it occur to anybody that... would be a good idea to go along the rail route in a systematic fashion, and get rid of all the graffiti?

I mean, I've read newspaper articles about the Northstar, and how there is a hope of building ridership to make the rail line cost effective. Well, if somebody gets on the train at Big Lake--just on a lark, just to see if they could have some fun up the line in Minneapolis--what kind of impression is that passenger getting to see Minneapolis as a graffiti-scarred urban dystopia?

Another good reason for graffiti vigilantes to just do their thing.

Also, the train should have some kind of snack vendors, or snack machines or, I don't know, SNACK ACCESS. But, all in all, it's fun to ride the train and go so far, for so little money, and hear the classic cry of "All aboard!"

Here are some photos from our little father/son trip:

We were confused at first when we got to Target field, but all it took to get us unconfused was a little bit of explanation: the light rail line which goes to Mall of America has been extended beyond the Warehouse District/Hennepin Avenue, and now goes all the way to Target Field. Simultaneously, the HEAVY RAIL Northstar Line starts at Target Field and goes to Big Lake.

Above, my son pictured with the light rail at Target Field and with me, his father, in front of the Northstat. This summer, we celebrated extended summer visitation with a trip all the way to "the end of the line." Well, next summer we'll have to celebrate by going to Target Field...and then maybe to Big Lake, again! (Hopefully, by that time, there will be something at Big Lake worth seeing)

Above, my son enjoys the view on the train...sort of.

Below, this is the first thing I saw at Big Lake...two people wandering around near the engine, as though trying to find something to do. This photo really captures that sense of, "OK, we're here...what now?"

Last, how can you ride a train with a camera and not take some cool railroad pictures? Here are two of many MANY that I snapped while riding.

When the train returns to Minneapolis from Big Lake, the engine actually PUSHES the train instead of pulling it. There is a small window at the front where you can see an "engineer's eye view" of the tracks. So cool! The Northstar Line is a fun day trip, but be sure to pack a picnic lunch!