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!

David Wheeler (Last Man Standing In The November 2009 Elections)

Photos by John Hoff

Twice in the last couple weeks I've run into David Wheeler, who ran for the Board of Estimate and Taxation. (No, please don't stop reading at this point! I WILL TRY SO HARD TO MAKE THIS FUN AND SHORT AND AVOID THE LOSS OF CONSCIOUSNESS AMONG MY READERS!)

When the votes were counted and then counted on a second round under the new IRV system, a few of the election races had more priority than others. The city council race in the Fifth Ward had "second round" votes counted ahead of the other races and, reportedly, a loud cheer arose from the room when city election officials realized they wouldn't have to deal with four years of Natalie Johnson-Lee, THANK GOD. Some thought IRV might spell the end for Don Samuels. Instead, he became the first Minneapolis official to WIN through IRV.

Also, the Barb Johnson race was another nail biter.

But what about the Board of Estimate and Taxation?

That race was counted last. So, of course, somebody had to be the last of the last...

Well, that guy was David Wheeler, a surprisingly fun and affable guy who was seen at the Don Samuels victory party held at Club Jager and, just recently, had his own victory party at the Monte Carlo Bar and Restaurant. Due to how late the votes were counted, Wheeler dubbed himself the "last man standing."

To which I say, well, that's far too exciting a phrase for the office Wheeler just one.

How about "last man estimating?"

Wayzata Organic Recycling Program ROCKS! (Why Can't Minneapolis Have This?)

Photo By John Hoff

This Thanksgiving, I visited a friend's family in Wayzata, Minnesota (Why-zet-ah) and, as we chatted politely about topics of mutual interest, I was drinking a Coca Cola (as usual) and asked if they recycled. (So I could properly dispose of my can)

And the answer was, like, DO we? Oh, we recycle EVERYTHING!

In fact, as it turns out, Wayzata recycles organic matter, which puts this city way ahead of Minneapolis...

Yes, Minneapolis turns YARD WASTE into compost, but Wayzata also composts kitchen waste.

I'm told recycling organic matter actually cuts the amount of true "garbage garbage" in half, so only one garbage can is required where, normally, one might need two. Furthermore, citizens of Wayzata can pick up free garden soil from the organic composting, woo hoo.

I have to wonder why Minneapolis doesn't have a program like this and when are we going to GET a program like this? If I were running for city council, some issues I might highlight would include recycling organics, phasing in biodegradable plastics made from corn starch polymer, and (of course) finding ways to drastically cut the amount of "non-consensual towing."

I'm just saying.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving With NoMi Friends And Neighbors...

Photos by John Hoff

Dave and Amy Haddy of the Jordan Neighborhood were having Thanksgiving dinner, and generously opened their home to some of us single and divorced folks. While we sat around the lavishly-arrayed table, saying what we were grateful for (I was profoundly grateful Don Samuels got re-elected) Dave mentioned that before he moved to North Minneapolis, he never really got to know his neighbors. There was never any pressing need to do so.

But here in NoMi, those of us who are active in our neighborhood association KNOW our neighbors, as you would know your buddies in an army platoon. So this Thanksgiving was not merely a meal or a gathering of friendly people, but an opportunity to celebrate the bonds between residents in a place where we work, we struggle, we may even have setbacks, but ultimately our neighborhood is improving by leaps and bounds largely because of these strong friendships and common goals.

I will always remember this Thanksgiving as being marked by the quirky, fun personalities of the Haddy family, and their home full of interesting hobbies...

Dave Haddy is Lebanese, and so one traditional dish served at their house is hashwi, which includes rice, ground beef, and pine nuts. Pictured below, Hawthorne's Housing Director Jeff Skrenes poses with the hashwi.

Jeff himself contributed a fruit salad that was something of a show-stealer. All the food was good--including a labor intensive seven-layer salad by Megan Goodmundson--but Jeff's fruit salad was simply ADDICTIVE. More amazing yet, the salad was incredibly simple: flavored yogurt mixed with Cool Whip, and tossed on four kinds of fresh berries. Jeff humbly noted it was a family recipe. He also mentioned that when he was told the "secret ingredient" in his mother's family recipes was "love," he felt "ripped off."

Here's a photo of Megan's seven-layer salad, made from a family recipe. However, Megan didn't follow the recipe precisely, because instead of strictly separating the seven layers, Megan mixed all the layers together. According to Megan, her mother would have never approved of not following the recipe, but still would have been glad the salad was a success.

But back to the Haddy family. Dave and Amy are both self-proclaimed geeks, who actually met at an anime convention. Their geeky hobbies fill their residence in a delightful way.

Dave Haddy knows a lot about comic books and their history, and amazed me with facts about a North Minneapolis connection to the creation of Captain Marvel and "Whiz Bang Days" in Robbinsdale. I told Haddy that he needs to write this stuff down for me, in detail, so I can publish it on Johnny Northside Dot Com. Stay tuned for that!

Toward the end of the night, we went out in the garage to check out Dave's 1964 Imperial which had such unusual features as a push-button transmission and no center posts between the front and back doors. I asked Dave, "What happens if the car rolls over?" and Dave said, "Well, I guess you just die."

Right AFTER dinner with the Haddy family and right BEFORE going to the Fourth Precinct, I made a brief stop at the home of Don and Sondra Samuels. I'd never been inside their home before, and I was pleased to see how well the historical character of the house had been preserved.

There at the house of Don Samuels, a number of residents were talking and laughing but also discussing serious neighborhood topics. Even on Thanksgiving, active and involved NoMi residents were figuring out ways to improve their surroundings. We have much to be thankful for...

But we also have a long way to go.

Sharing Thanksgiving With Minneapolis Police...

Photos By John Hoff, and contributed photos xoxo

The tradition is not quite as old as Thanksgiving itself, but for several years residents of the Fourth Precinct have been putting on a meal for the police officers as a show of gratitude. Joan Thom, head of the Public Safety Committee in the Hawthorne Neighborhood, and her husband, Len Lewis, as well as "Buzzy" Bohn have been the ones to take the lead in putting on the annual dinner.

The dinner doesn't happen just once on Thanksgiving, but serves all three shifts. Numerous Northside residents contribute items to the dinner and are involved in its preparation. I don't have a list of all the different residents and their contributions, but off the top of my head I know Housing Director Jeff Skrenes made an incredible fruit salad and Jordan resident Megan Goodmundson contributed pumpkin pies. Oh, do I know about those pies. For two days, I had to transport those pies around, careful not to crumble the crust in the slightest bit. Megan called them her "police pies" and reminded me not to commit (even by accident) "police pie brutality."

Megan was preparing to make homemade pies, but when she saw pies for $2.88 at Cub Foods on West Broadway, she was all, like, "I can't MAKE pies that cheap." So, being a frugal Nomi homie, she bought the pies instead. This was Megan's first year at the dinner, and she says she wants to go every year from now on.

This was also the first year I attended, along with my 12-year-old son, during the "mid-shift" dinner...

Two of the officers at mid-shift were not from the Fourth Precinct, but with a K9 unit that sees action all over the city. Here's video from YouTube of one of these officers in action, click here to see Officer Edwards and her four-legged partner, Chief.

One Fourth Precinct officer was a former member of a SWAT unit and not only chatted with us at length, but also posed for a photo with my son. Another officer had a lot of stripes and medals on his uniform, which he jokingly referred to as "bling."

My son took note of an interesting display case, full of old and unusual weapons taken off suspects.

In chatting with the officers, two themes emerged. The Fourth Precinct appreciated the show of gratitude (or, to put it another way, they were grateful for the show of appreciation) and, secondly, there was common agreement things have really turned around in North Minneapolis.

The officers were there long enough to eat a meal and chat a bit, but then they went right back out on the street to keep everybody else safe as citizens enjoyed their own Thanksgiving. One young officer remarked to his partner that he was going to hit the "stair climber" machine before leaving, so he could work off part of the dinner.

That's part of the reason why he's a police officer, and I'm just a blogger.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

We Burn "We Buy Houses" Signs...

On Sunday, I put together a last-minute father/son activity with my 12-year-old, Alex: we went around collecting the "We Buy Houses" signs littering the grassy boulevards of NoMi. My blog post about this activity actually made the Twin Cities Daily Planet, hooray.

Well, it's Thanksgiving and I have visitation with my son AGAIN. We'll be enjoying our Thanksgiving with the fine men and women of the Fourth Precinct but, in the meantime, we thought it would be fun to have a little bonfire. So we burned the signs and roasted some Peeps.

ADDENDUM: The signs are cardboard. The wood is not laminated. And, oh, the dog is inside a fenced yard.

For the record.

(Do not click "Read More" but DO help clean up the boulevards of NoMi)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Finding Money Hidden Inside My House In NoMi...

Photos By John Hoff

In keeping with my vow to write more about my wonderful house in NoMi, (damn the thugs, full speed ahead) I thought I'd tell the story of the pile of money I found hidden inside the dryer...

My $17,900 home--which I have dubbed "Willow Haven" due to the willow tree out front--was once some kind of low-end rental, judging by the scars left on the door frames from padlocks. Desperate characters resided there--judging by some of the mail which still arrives at my house and that one visit from a probation officer. (Who, I might add, seemed really reluctant to believe my emphatic assertions that I had NO IDEA where her parolee might live)

Some appliances came with the house: a fridge, which works well enough though must be defrosted more often than normal, an oven (which was severely in need of cleaning but, more importantly, I don't like gas ovens) and, downstairs, a washer and dryer.

The washer worked fine but the dryer, like the oven, was gas. And gas has to go. Yes, I know gas is usually less expensive to operate than electric, but gas is a fossil fuel and (as a radical freegan and member of the Green Party) I strongly prefer to use electricity, which can be generated from alternative power sources. I have crazy dreams of converting the house to solar and geothermal energy; so getting rid of the gas appliances was step one.

The gas dryer sat downstairs--unused--for about a year, while I puttered around with other things. Finally, there came a weekend when it was time to take the gas dryer out of the basement; quite a pain-in-the-butt task. A good friend of mine (we'll call him The Irishman) helped with the task, which involved using some kind of moving straps. Frankly, I'd never seen these kind of straps, which involved basically lashing ourselves to the dryer and moving around like that. People DO this all day? My word. Another good reason to send my son to MIT so he can figure out how to manufacture cost-effective robots.

When we started moving the dryer, I heard MONEY rattling around inside. Coins began spilling out, and in dust-bunny filled corners on the bottom I found little nests of coins, mostly quarters. OH MY WORD. How much money was inside the thing? And how did it GET there? Of course, at first we figured the money had been in people's pockets and worked itself into the dryer itself...but upon deeper contemplation, how did THAT make sense? The money would have come loose in the washer, not the dryer.

The Irishman told me maybe kids had been putting money into the slots behind the dryer. Over the course of years, many coins had found their way there. And that sort of made sense, though I figured the dryer must have been located somewhere else for a while...somewhere not right up against a wall, so the vents would have been more exposed for little hands to insert coins.

When I was a kid, we had a knothole in one of our walls, and many pennies found their way inside. My father found me trying to put a nickel inside, once--A WHOLE NICKEL--and ordered me to STOP THROWING AWAY MONEY, along with some stories of what he could buy with a nickel when he was my age. So, after that, mostly crayons and toy soldiers found their way inside.

Those poor little toy soldiers...Missing In Action since the early 1970s!

So, you're probably wondering, how much money was inside that old dryer? Well, I used the change-counting machine at TCF Bank in Stadium Village and the dust-bunny cash-stash totaled slightly over ten bucks. Probably enough to do three loads of clothes at the laundromat.

But I won't be going to the laundromat much longer...I'm looking forward to getting a new dryer.

Electric, of course.

Hero Vikings And Community Members Give Out 600 Turkeys To Northside Families...

Contributed Photos

Information and pictures have come my way from Sherman Patterson, a resident of the McKinley Neighborhood and aide to Mayor Rybak, about a massive turkey giveaway at Cub Foods on West Broadway which happened a few days before Thanksgiving.

This event came about mostly through the financial resources of EJ and Erin Henderson, who are players for the Minnesota Vikings. According to Patterson--who is sometimes called "Uncle Sherm" by those who know and love him--the food giveaway happened like this...
EJ and Erin have quietly supported our youth on the North side and throughout the city. Last year I ask them to donate 300 turkeys to families at Cub, and EJ said "let's do it" without asking questions. EJ and Erin are classy, low-key guys who are involved with the North Minneapolis community.

I gave EJ a call a few weeks ago and ask him to do the turkey give away again and that we would need to bump it up to 500 families because of these trying times, and again he said "no problem." The great thing about it is that we gave out 600 turkeys.

You can see from the pictures that we had a great turnout. EJ was so touched that he told the crowd that next year he's going to double the turkeys that will be donated to needy families in the community.
According to Patterson, there was an effort to identify the families most in need through the work of churches and organizations, to assure--how shall I put it?--optimum turkey distribution. Next year, because more turkeys are expected to be distributed, more organizations are expected to be involved with this identification of families in need.

In addition to the Hendersons and Sherman Patterson, City Council Member Don Samuels rolled up his sleeves and assisted with the distribution.

Stupid Home Repairs, Addition Edition

Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

I was out doing a rather successful round of foreclosure prevention doorknocking when I came across the house shown above. This is 2901-03 James Ave N.

Jordanites, feel free to comment on how or why this design was ever approved. My guess is that somebody just went ahead and added this outrageously ugly section of a house that doesn't look anything like the rest of the structure or anything else on the block. Only AFTER it was complete did they ask permission of any kind. Oh, and take a look at that last shot. House markers in sharpie!

(Do not click "Read More," but do be grateful that folks like "Mr. Slummy" are now being stopped in their tracks.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Love My Home In NoMi--!

Photo By John Hoff

I've often thought I should write more about my house in the Hawthorne Neighborhood, the one I bought for a mere $17,900 or something like that. All my friends tell me how lucky I was, how fortunate, to be able to make my move in the housing market and buy a home outright; a house that once had an assessed value of, like, $180,000? Something like that.

And it will probably have a value that high once again.

But, of course, I'm well aware that my blog has a tendency to upset some people (no, really, I've heard that!) and so I sometimes hesitate to share details about my beautiful much I enjoy being a home owner in Minneapolis...and the work which gets done on the place, little by little, to make it not only a home but a base for world-changing activism involving (for example) freeganism.

Lately, though, I've been thinking, "Gee, really, I'm not hard to find if somebody is determined to find me--especially with mouthy, implacable enemies like the T.J. Waconia fraudsters (Jon Helgason and Tom Balko) and their little greased-up prison errand-boy, Jim Watkins of Plano, Texas, a.k.a. "The DFW Mentor."

(Oh, yeah, I've got something special for Jim Watkins, by and by, when I'm not too busy galavanting all over the nation seeing, for example, Apache Indian reservations. So cool)

All of this is just my tangential way of saying...I might be writing about my home more, the same home with a "We Watch, We Call" sign out front. After all, if JOHNNY NORTHSIDE is afraid to write about his own house, others may feel afraid as well. I see it as my job to be unafraid.

So let me tell you about my new oven--! A few months ago I...

...replaced the old, "grody to the max" oven (which came with the house) and replaced it with a newer, considerably less grody oven which still cost nothing, because I'm frugal-as-all-get-out and, well, it's not hard to score an oven. Somebody is always pleasing their woman with a sparkly new oven, which means the old oven has to go SOMEWHERE; probably to some divorced guy paying child support.


So I got this new oven, pictured above, and celebrated with a friend of mine by cooking up a kettle of corn on the cob. I had briefly considered having a LIVE LOBSTER with corn on the cob, but then I thought, well, who wants to eat a live lobster? If I bite into it while it's alive, won't it scream? Won't that be profoundly disturbing? Live oysters are eat them and they don't make any noise at all, but I've heard lobsters scream.

But seriously...lobster? During a recession?

I decided to just go with corn on the cob. The picture, above, shows my friend and I cooking up the corn on the surface of the new oven. And, yes, this was a few months ago. Why am I writing about it now? Because the photos were in my camera, and I had to leave for, like, a month to drive a truck all over this great country. Yes, I'll be blogging about those adventures by and by, but for now I just wanted to say...

Corn on the cob...cooked on a new my wonderful home, which I own outright.

I've often blogged about trying to transform NoMi into "urban utopia." Well, sometimes I realize we already experience moments of pure utopia, such as the famous backyard bonfires slash policy discussions, or walks with a dog around Jordan Pond during weekend visitation with my son. We just need to make the moments of utopia last longer, unbroken by crime and thuggery.

These are the things I think about while eating corn on the cob. Though sometimes I just think...

More salt. More butter!

(Addendum, Thanksgiving Day, 2009: DFW Mentor Jim Watkins claims he no longer lives in Plano, Texas. He did not specifically deny the allegation that he is a "greased up prison errand boy," however)