Friday, August 6, 2010

My Little West Bank 311 Mission... (Summer Visitation 2010)

Contributed photo, xoxo, blog post by John Hoff

I never grow tired of calling 311. And when I say I NEVER GROW TIRED, I mean I'm quite willing to call dozens of times over the course of years as graffiti comes back...and comes back...and comes back.

I never grow irritated, at wit's end, or frustrated. I never feel despair at the way the task keeps growing back. It's like mowing grass. Do you despair because a week or so later, you have to mow it all over again?

This wall at 510 Cedar Ave. in the West Bank area is my little 311 project...

Obviously "Johnny Northside" doesn't live in the West Bank Neighborhood, but my philosophy is "wherever I am, that's my neighborhood" so if (for example) I'm out on the road trucking, and there's some issue which can be rectified with a word to a gas station manager, or a quick 911 call to the State Patrol of Whatever State, of course I'm going to make the effort EVEN IF I'M NOT SURE I WILL EVER PASS BY THIS WAY AGAIN.

It's like when I was a teenager, distributing Spanish copies of the New Testament in one of the toughest neighborhoods of Hermosillo, State of Sonora, Mexico, and one of our mission leaders showed us our territory on a map and said, "This is the area you are responsible for covering. YOU WILL ANSWER TO ALMIGHTY GOD FOR THIS AREA, SO DO YOUR JOB."

So we did our job with intensity--in rain, in dust, around mounds of burning garbage piles, holding our hands over our mouths and noses as we passed by the maggot-infested bodies of mongrel dogs that had been, it appeared, stoned to death--and we passed out those New Testaments to every house that wanted one.

I've never been back to that place. I'm not even sure how I would find it if I tried. If I wandered those barrios again, and came upon it by accident, I'm not sure how I'd know it was the same place. And yet in the back of my mind, I still believe, "I will answer to God for that neighborhood and the mission I was given there."

So it is that this wall at 510 Cedar Ave. has become my little project. I pass by it frequently as I move between the University of Minnesota and the light rail station on the West Bank area. In the last several months, it seems like the owners have become "trained" and they've figured out to slap paint over the graffiti BEFORE there is a complaint. I base this on how quickly the paint goes up, seemingly faster than my estimation of the speed of the 311 system.

And yet the graffiti returns, and yet I return to calling 311. There are many walls in this city scarred by graffiti, and I can't be responsible for ALL of them, but this one is different. This one I pass by frequently, and it comes to my attention, and so I feel like I must do something, I must be responsible for this wall. Again and again I get satisfying 311 results, but again and again the results fade in new onslaughts of graffiti.

But I don't give up. This is my territory, this is my mission, and at the end of the day, I feel fine with Almighty God.


Patrick said...

Good work JNS. I've taken my cue from you and call 311 whenever I see a neighbor getting out of line or working against an urban utopia in NoMi.

Pond-dragon said...

Interesting how the word "adventures" came to mind reading the post!

Anonymous said...

I think its wasted energy focusing your time in calling 311 on graffiti, if the almighty god tells you to clean graffiti, i hope that every time you see a piece of garbage on the ground when you're walking around that you pick it up. Yeah graffiti can make areas look trashy but that was a pretty small little graffiti that you're calling the city on to clean up.

Johnny Northside! said...

Riiiiight, Patrick. All the way from Afton, Minnesota you'll be doing that, right?

On another note: comment rejected which had a link to a Craigslist ad. Strongly suspected to be a troll.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever considered placing a webcam pointed out your window? That way we could help calling 311,911 as we see anyone out on the street in front of your house.

Patrick said...

What can I say, I get around. I like to spend time with truckers and sometimes when I jump in their cabs I end up strange places.

Afton is nice this time of year, to boot.

And whoever is complaining about JNS calling 311 too much needs to lighten up. John can't do everything himself. He pays his taxes so the city can help him with this kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

Johnny, you do great work on behalf of the Northside. Now that you have these capabilities, I think you should consider next (and more direct) steps. Calling 311 is great, but at the same time, it's also calling someone else to take care of stuff that bugs you.

So, I'm challenging you to up your game, in the name of enhanced community engagement and for the interest and delight of your readers. I checked the HC site, and the property you mention is owned by Wadani properties. He's obviously got some interest in covering up the grafitti, even if he uses whatever color of paint to do it. Why don't you give Wadani a call and you guys could team up to actually catch the tagger? It would be a great set of stories, you and Wadani and maybe some of his/her tenants staking out the property and tackling the tagger.

Even if Wadani thinks it's a stupid idea and tells you to take a hike, at least he'll know there's somebody out there in the community that gives a crap about these things. Maybe he'll be a bit inspired and change something in his world.

What do you say?

Pond-dragon said...

"Up your game"?
Easy to say Anon, most of the NOMI folks hanging with JNS have a game that is 10-15 Hrs a week community oriented, knowing JNS and tracking with him on a number of projects , he's at the 20+. Perhaps some other folks should "Up their game"
Unless you are one of those screaming liberals that thinks those that do 16's should put in more, so those that do nothing can do nothing more!