In 2008 and 2009, a great deal of the stories on this blog involved the struggle of this blogger, AND Hawthorne Board Chair Peter Teachout, AND Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes to revitalize a gritty four square block area called the EcoVillage and take that area back from drug dealers, prostitution and every manner of street crime.
The area was, statistically, the worst four square blocks in North Minneapolis and, therefore, in the entire State of Minnesota. Yes, these statistics shift and are subject to interpretation but, well, AT THAT TIME and BY SOME MEASURES. Ask Jeff Skrenes, that geek knows the numbers by heart and probably has them on a SPREADSHEET.
In any case.
The turning point in the EcoVillage arguably came when Peter Teachout's truck was torched in front of his house and...
...the arsonist, (most likely the arsonist) beat on Peter's front door and said, "HEY, YOUR TRUCK IS ON FIRE!"
This act of domestic terrorism, directed at the duly elected political leadership of our little neighborhood, his wife and small children, did not cause Peter to throw up his hands and leave North Minneapolis. Instead Peter got a new truck with insurance, defiantly parked it in the EXACT SAME SPOT AS THE OTHER TRUCK, and worked his knuckles to the bone until crime was pushed out of that area in what was called the EcoVillage "miracle."
People in Washington D.C. wrote about our "miracle." Peter was formally recognized by the City of Minneapolis, not just for all the good he did in the EcoVillage but for his colorful "shoe patrol" efforts taking down dangling shoes from power lines which (so it is believed) mark drug territory.
And then Peter's life took a turn. Peter has army green in his genes (as does this blogger) and one day Peter felt the call and the circumstances in his life made it time to join the U.S. Army, where he has done extremely well as an officer. Now Peter has received the orders every good soldier both dreads and longs for with a complex mix of emotion.
Peter is going to war.
I won't say where, or with what unit, but Teachout has anticipated the orders for weeks. I received permission to blog about it but, of course, not until the orders were IN HIS HOT LITTLE HAND.
Too often, soldiers hear about orders coming, and then the orders don't come and, well, it would just be EMBARRASSING to say he's going and then have something change. At least this way he's in the position of saying "They told me I was going." (To which I say, yes, Lieutenant Teachout, sir, and THEY TOLD ME I WAS GOING to South Korea, twice, but do you see me wearing a jacket from Pusan and showing off photos of the DMZ? You do not. Believe it when your boots hit the ground and you can smell finely powdered dried goat feces in the wind.
Excuse me. My mind LOCKS ON sometimes with that particular subject...
Anyway, Peter Teachout continues to own and responsibly manage rental property in North Minneapolis and so many of us hope that when his military adventures end, perhaps decades from now, he will find his way back to North Minneapolis to provide political leadership.
In fact, this blogger hopes for and tries to help produce a national trend: The adventurous veterans of two protracted overseas wars moving to our nation's tough neighborhoods, grabbing up beautiful historic housing and taking these neighborhoods back from armed street gangs so further waves of "decent people" can follow...it's already kind of happening in North Minneapolis, thanks to City Council President Barb Johnson and "Houses for Heroes."
When it happens...when it happens on a MASSIVE SCALE and not just as a micro-trend of two, three, half a dozen war vets grabbing up houses in tough neighborhoods...but when waves of veterans start systematically taking back the tough neighborhoods because it's how they can afford homes for their families and by god, they still have a lot of unsatisfied FIGHT left in them, when THAT starts happening on a massive scale...
Then we can truly have that "ownership society" one of our nation's presidents sort of mentioned, in passing.
But some of those troops who will live in our neighborhoods aren't back from war yet.
Some haven't even LEFT yet.
JNS blog says: God speed, Peter, and keep your head down. Your updates and adventures will always have a place and an audience on this blog.