Sunday, July 24, 2011

Even Stores In Afghanistan Look Better Than Friedman's Shoe Store On West Broadway...

Photo by John Hoff

A lot has changed in North Minneapolis since I left for military deployment around the first week of May, 2011. The first night I slept in a motel room en route to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, I turned on my laptop and learned Osama Bin Laden had been killed by Navy seals. This reminds me that I owe Megan Goodmundson a blog post comparing the coolness of the navy to the coolness of the army. It's very hard to swallow my army pride and admit certain things, so let's just say it's taken me a while to write that particular blog, about a year so far.

Later, while I was still very much gone, the North Minneapolis tornado ripped through...sparing my house, but ripping most of the roof off Megan's bungalow and destroying the lovely little crab apple tree in her back yard. I called up all the mutual friends I knew from my barracks at Camp Shelby: if your house is safe and secure, run to help Megan. Her roof is gone. I told one of our mutual friends--a navy vet--"Get to Megan's house and the first thing you do, you find that American flag wherever it is and raise it over what's left of the house."

He did just that. I will have to get around to publishing that inspiring photo in the near future.

Now living inside a fortress of sun-baked mud and straw in Afghanistan, but finally enjoying internet access, I am trying to catch up on what has changed in NoMi. I heard from the Hawthorne Hawkman blog about a new restaurant--which might have good soul food, but needs to refrain from sign spam. I heard about new gardening space in the Hawthorne Eco Village.

I'm afraid that when I come back from Afghanistan (inshallah) so much will have changed, it will be hard to get up to speed. Of course, some things HAVE NOT changed. Paul Koenig is still a lying lie-bag in legal hot water over his failed slumlord empire.

And (so I learned from a recent post by the Hawthorne Hawkman) the Friedman's Shoe Store on West Broadway still hasn't...

...fixed the ugly-as-all-get-out "butt glass" on the exterior of their store.

Pictured above is an image from Afghanistan which I am using as an artsy-fartsy stock photo to creatively illustrate my point. This is a pair of shoes...sort of. It's actually a kind of a plastic mold of a shoe, complete with fake laces. These cost about 800 Afghani in the local bazaars, which (at a rate of 46 Afghani to one American dollar) is about four bucks, right? It should be pointed out that Pakistani currency circulates here as freely as Afghan currency, and is often the preferred currency, so one is more likely to purchase these faux shoes with Pakistani rupees rather than Afghanis.

The average national income in Afghanistan is about $300 a year, though President Hamid Karzai (a truly great man saddled with a job that would tax the personality of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln) wants to bring the median national income up to $700 a year. (Al Flowers, please note correct use of the word "median" instead of "medium" when somebody reads this blog post to you)

These so-called "shoes" are made in China and sold all over Afghanistan. After only a couple weeks of wear, walking on the hard ground full of rocks and stones, holes wear in the bottom. Afghan workers who I supervise constantly ask me for shoes and I'm all, like, "I'm telling me friends in America to gather up as many shoes and boots as they can and send them to me, freight rate APO, to Afghanistan." Though, given the language difficulties, this comes out something like, "I...write...America. Tell friends. Send many shoes." I explain, apologetically, how this will take a while, which can be expressed by saying the Pashto word for "tomorrow" and the word for "day after tomorrow" over and over:

Sabaa. Balsabaa. Balsabaa. Balsabaa.

And when I find myself saying this, how fixing the shoe issue will happen tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, the day after the day after mind flashes to Friedman's Shoe Store. And how the much-talked about, some-time-in-the-sweet-bye-and-bye fixes to the exterior never seem to materialize. I dare say I will manage to put shoes and boots on the feet of fifty Afghans before Friedman's does anything about their ugly exterior. My relatives will be hanging my ornaments on the Christmas tree--ornaments which I plan to make by cutting apart decorative Christmas cookie tins left over from last year's To-Any-Soldier care packages, and nailing these metal pieces to painted pieces of wood--before Friedman's fixes their exterior. Of THAT I am confident.

Let me just say in closing that, since coming to this country, I've seen local merchants who do booming business out of a rusty, abandoned Conex container converted into a store. One young man who works in one of those "cargo container stores" told me he makes $300 a month, and he said this with a great deal of pride. I've seen about half a dozen little stores like that and, without exception, every one of these Third World stores in the middle of a war zone had nicer glass on the exterior than Friedman's Shoe Store on West Broadway in North Minneapolis.

What is Friedman's excuse?

To my way of thinking, they just don't have one.


Anonymous said...

Just think, if you had been more cordial with Friedman's you might be able to ask them to send shoes to Afganistan as well. Consider that bridge burned chump.

NoMi Passenger said...

Friedman's would do well to chose which charitable givings to take part in separate from neighborhood politics.

And while you speak of it, let me just say one thing I never quite understood about the whole Friedman's facade problem.

I always, *always* here about folks doing business at Friedman's. Folks coming from miles around because Friedman's has the rep for having the latest trends, or the special, unique items. Neighborhood folks who say they buy ALL their shoes at Friedman's. (There's currently a comment up on NXNS blog in which a commenter claims to have bought his 3rd pair in X amount of time)

I always got the impression does a good, brisk business.

So I never understood why they let their building look so run down and unattractive. It kinda reminds me of slumlords who rake in the rent cash flow, but keep the rental house looking like crap, while the slumlord lives out in the burbs.

Where do the Friedman's live?

Anonymous said...

City website says:

David Friedman
4xxx _ _ _ La N Plymouth Mn 55441
(no need to be brash and publish full address here, someone else can find it if they really want or need it)

City website also says the building value has just about quadrupled since 1997. You would think that in 14 years they could have borrowed a low interest loan against that significant property appreciation and made some facade improvements?