Saturday, December 29, 2012

Demonstra: Lao American Art and Poetry

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, image from the "Demonstra" Kickstarter page.

Earlier this year, my good friend, fellow blogger, and north Minneapolis transplant Bryan Thao Worra put out a Facebook request for names of sea gods he could use in writing his new book of speculative Lao poetry.  And Aquaman was already disqualified.  Immediately I fired off a suggestion of Iku Turso, a Finnish sea monster sometimes called the Ox of Death, or "thousand-horned," but who is more often depicted as part man and either part octopus or walrus, and bears a striking resemblance to H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu.  Iku Turso has been called the father of disease and the Finnish god of war and pestilence. 

"And lutefisk?"  I was asked.

"No.  Lutefisk is Norwegian, and even a god of war, pestilence and disease has his limits."

Out of that exchange, the following poem was born...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Monte's Auto Takes Care of "Old Reliable"

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

I drive a seventeen-year-old car that is affectionately named "Old Reliable" on the grounds that at least one of those descriptors is always true.  My reason for driving an old, if not entirely reliable, vehicle have been centered around home ownership.  I picked this car up almost two years ago with the plan that no car payment and minimal insurance would get me into a home that much faster.  Since mortgage payments on the northside are far cheaper than rent, once this car kicks the bucket I'll use that extra cash flow towards New Reliable.

Just before closing on my house, Old Reliable wouldn't start and she was leaking engine coolant like a sieve.  So the car sat there until after I closed, and I spent the summer biking.  Based on a trusted referral, O.R. limped down to south Minneapolis to Frenz Auto to get back up and running.  Battery connections were tightened, some new fuses were put in, and a water pump was replaced.  Frenz did great work at reasonable prices, but I felt guilty that I wasn't taking my car to a northside shop.

So when it came time for more work on Old Reliable, I took her down the street to...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Snow Shoveling Rules Not Followed on City Properties

2611-15 Penn Ave N
2631 Penn Ave N
 Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

So we got a bit of a snowstorm the other day.  I spent about six of the twenty-four hours between Sunday and Monday mornings out shoveling.  The last time I lived in a house on a corner lot, it was in college with ten other housemates.  Looking back on it, I can definitely say that the "eleven 21-year-olds" shoveling model is far superior than the solo approach I had to employ.  But quite a few of my neighbors on my block haven't even done that much.  One neighbor in particular is a rather egregious offender:  The City of Minneapolis.

I usually take my dog up two blocks and back down again for our ambulations.  Tonight, instead of the usual route around Queen, we stayed along Penn to see what lots were unplowed (the dog's interest in the topic is confined to the joy of running through chest-deep snow).  Almost all of those such parcels belong to CPED, the Community Planning and Economic Development arm of Minneapolis government.  And all of those lots are vacant with no structure on them.

 The first two vacant lots to the north of me are owned by both CPED and GMHC, but they were both plowed by my neighbor.  Including those, the breakdown of vacant parcels is this:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

311 App Becomes Virtually Useless

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

...for me, at least.

I've heard quite a few positive reviews of the Minneapolis 311 smartphone application.  My experience, however, has been far from that.  First there were problems completing the reports, although those were supposedly limited to the Android operating systems.  Then those were fixed but my phone still acted up.  I tried erasing and reinstalling the program, to no avail.  Then I picked up a new phone, and hoped that would do the trick.

At a recent 3rd Ward CARE meeting, the app was again rolled out to the community.  During that presentation, we were informed that the "other" category would be removed from the smartphone app.  The bottom line is that category was too unwieldy for city employees.  Ok, that makes sense from a budgetary and practical standpoint.  The options we now have are...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Surface Parking Denied, MPS to Bring Appeal to Full Council

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, image is a screen grab from video of Zoning & Planning.

On Tuesday, December 4, the Zoning and Planning Committee denied the Minneapolis Public Schools ongoing request to pave over yet more land along West Broadway.  CM Goodman led the charge, asking why land was taken off the tax rolls and yet the Public School system was still asking for more.  She was later corrected about her understanding of how that acquisition happened, as the MPS had ownership of the parcels in question for some time.

Which brings me to a side point.  The back half of the existing parking lot had some absolutely gorgeous houses on them.  I remember gazing wistfully upon those homes, knowing they would be demolished, and wishing there was an alternative.  Little did I know that an alternative to demolition did in fact exist.  MPS could have put in half a block of parking behind their building, half a block on the site proposed now, and left between five and ten historic structures standing.  (And, I might add, still on the tax rolls)

I'm not the only one who didn't have the whole story.  For instance, the MPS representatives didn't even know...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Problem Landlords File Fair Housing Complaint

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photo from the Johnny Northside blog.

A few weeks ago, a small blurb caught my attention in the Star Tribune.  A group of landlords had filed a federal fair housing complaint against the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  It was worth barely a few inches of newsprint, but the small article was so chock full of wonkish housing policy tidbits that I had to dig deeper.  What kind of complaint?  Who, specifically filed it?  And most importantly, could I track down the full complaint document?

Well, the answer to the last question is an affirmative.  The complainants' press release can be found here, and here is the full complaint document.

The case alleges that Minneapolis and St. Paul haven't complied with some reporting requirements, and goes on to state that since the Complainants rent predominantly to minorities, each city's housing policies have a disparate effect on people of a protected class.  Therefore, neither Minneapolis nor St. Paul should be eligible for federal funds such as Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) or Community Development Block Grants (CDBG).  As for who filed the complaint, there are a few infamous bad actors involved, such as...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lowry Bridge Light Show

Post and video by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Yesterday the Lowry Bridge tested its LED lights for about an hour.  The display was dazzling, and here's hoping we get more such shows in the future.  I used my phone's time-lapse feature to condense the bridge's performance down to a more accessible two minutes.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pave Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

At a recent City Planning Commission meeting, the Minneapolis Public Schools headquarters (formally known as the Davis Center) proposed rezoning half of a city block they own, for the purpose of putting an additional 150 parking spots near Girard and 21st Avenue North.  That request was denied by the committee.  But since this is not the first time MPS has brought the issue forward, and since they own the land in question, this certainly won't be the last such attempt.  They may even go directly to the City Council as a whole and ask for the staff and committee recommendations to be overturned.  That action would be premature at best, and possibly detrimental to the commercial development of the West Broadway corridor.

While the MPS headquarters is a boon for our community, and they are a valued partner in north Minneapolis, the need for more parking has not yet been justified.  Their plans for the site shouldn't be taken off the table entirely, but ought to be put on hold--in the parking lot, if you will--while alternative measures are fully explored first.

For instance...

Monday, November 12, 2012

A New Ghost Pepper Concoction - The Bloody Laowry

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Contrary to whatever assumptions are made from the photos above, the idea for this drink didn't come while in an altered state.  Instead, I happened to be listening to a cooking show on National Public Radio, and a caller brought up infusing vodka with Thai chili peppers.  That's when I got the bright idea to try this at home, except with ghost peppers.  I did a little research, and here's the basic recipe I came up with:
  • One liter of vodka of decent but not too high quality.  The top shelf stuff has its own flavor, and the point of infusing vodka is to make the flavor your own.
  • Two ghost peppers, ribbed and seeded.  Dried peppers work better.
  • Two to three inches of fresh ginger.
  • Two limes, using only the rind of the lime.
I divided the vodka into four mason jars, cut each ghost pepper in half for each jar, and added a quarter of the limes and ginger to each part.  Then I sealed the contents and let them sit in a sunless area for a while.  Most internet sites tell you to wait anywhere from four days to 2-3 weeks.  After a day and a half of infusion, I decided to check up on my science project.  That's when I found that the ghost peppers had been hard at work, because...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Post-Election Analysis

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, stock Youtube footage in honor of the two amendments.

Overall, I consider the 2012 elections a resounding success for north Minneapolis and Minnesota.  I have to include the "overall" descriptor because clearly the candidate I was most involved in supporting didn't win.  Linda Higgins defeated Blong Yang, and did so convincingly.  I remain proud to have supported Blong in this election, and I do hope he stays active in our political arena.

That being said, I issue a challenge to those of you who may have echoed such sentiments prior to the election.  I heard that refrain frequently, most notably in the Star Tribune's endorsement of Higgins.  "We hope Yang will stay involved in the political process. He has the caliber to be a thoughtful and effective elected official," is what they said.  To which I respond, "How can the next generation of local leaders (like Blong Yang, Ian Alexander, Terra Cole, and others) become our new "thoughtful and effective elected officials" if we don't actually elect them?

By no means would I advocate for a wholesale cleaning of house.  There is something to be said for seniority and experience, and north Minneapolis needs a healthy mix of the old and the new in our elected officials.  I wish we had tilted towards the new for our next Hennepin County Commissioner, but I look forward to what Blong's next steps are.

Before leaving this topic, something ought to be said about the impact of Hmong and Southeast Asian voters in our community.  I had the privilege of helping a few get to the polls on election day, including some who needed translation.  (I left my Babel Fish at home though, so other campaign workers helped with that aspect.)  I count helping people with language barriers among my proudest moments of election day work.  Speaking fluent Spanish, this is an activity I do have some experience doing.

Yang engaged the Hmong community in ways that no other local candidate - at least in recent memory - has done.  Lest anyone dismiss such engagement as insignificant, I would direct you to the twenty-vote margin of victory for Raymond Dehn in the primary.  Blong estimated in conversations with me that there were dozens of Hmong voters, perhaps as many as 100-200, who voted for him and no one else in the primary election.  Engaging those voters in 59B could have convincingly swung the tally in Dehn's or Cole's favor, or brought Alexander into a virtual three-way tie.  If nothing else, Yang's campaign is a testament to the fact that the Hmong vote matters in north Minneapolis and future candidates would do well to remember that.

There were three other results that made me especially proud to be a Minnesotan, starting with...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hennepin County Campaign Finance Reports - People Vs. PACs

 Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photos from the MN Sun.

(Two disclaimers:  first is that I am not a neutral party here and readers should be aware of that.  Second, if I have misread or misinterpreted any items on these reports, I will correct those mistakes.  I was once a treasurer of an organization's PAC, but haven't dealt with such reports in close to ten years.)

As we get closer to election day, I thought it would be revealing to take a look at the contributions that have gone to both Linda Higgins and Blong Yang in their contest for Hennepin County Commissioner.  What I found was surprising.  For instance...

The Obscure Elections - What the Heck is a Soil Conservation District Anyway?

Post and stock photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

The picture is of some dirt and gravel in my back yard.  If anyone wants to conserve this particular bit of soil, now's the time because I'll be doing landscaping in the spring and then this stuff is gone.

Earlier this week, I visited the Secretary of State's website to take a look at a sample ballot.  I wanted to see who all I would be voting for, especially the lesser-known races like judges.  Normally I just leave those blank, figuring that people who really care about such things do their research and those folks should get to decide among that particular slate of candidates.  I knew someone who would always vote for the challenger, just to muck up the system, she said.  Although that person was my ex-wife and maybe her knee-jerk distaste for incumbents was a warning I should have heeded.

Well...moving on.  This year I thought I'd do my civic duty and find out a little more about the lesser-known races - who's running and even what in the world ARE some of these things?  The first elected office I knew nothing about was the Soil and Water Conservation District, which is apparently a part of the County, although the districts are statewide.

On my sample ballot, the candidates running are...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why Save This House?

Post, image, and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Just a few blocks to the north of me, there sits a boarded and vacant home that has gone into tax forfeiture and is owned by Hennepin County.  At first glance, it looks like a pretty obvious candidate for demolition.  The siding that doesn't have lead paint on it is peeling away, the remaining siding will need to be stripped or removed entirely, there may not be much left on the inside, and it sits on a very non-conforming lot.

The subject property is one parcel to the east of the highlighted property, which we'll get to in a moment.
Contrary to the initial reaction one might have, that last supposed reason for demolition is precisely why I want to see this house saved....

Do Not Feed the Cats - My Community Impact Statement on "Joy the Cat Lady"

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, stock photo from

In response to a post I saw this morning on Johnny Northside, I began to compose a community impact statement about what people around me have experienced from the "Cat Lady," Joy Mattice.  I had intended to post it quickly, but had work commitments and wished to track down specific people who were the best recipients of that statement, City Attorney's office employee Laufele Murphy and our local CCP/Safe contact Jennifer Waisanen.  Only after I clicked "send" on my letter to them would I publish my letter.

(And by the way John, I'm not proposing a solution to the feral cat problem.  I'm proposing a solution to the Joy Mattice problem.  As far as I'm concerned, Charles Darwin can help out with the feral cats.)

My impact statement is after the jump, unedited.

Lowry Bridge Opening Photos

Post, photos, image, and video by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

On Saturday, October 27, 2012 the Lowry Bridge reopened first to bike and pedestrian traffic and then to vehicles in the evening.  Plenty of media were there to cover the event, and regular folks were ubiquitous in their Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Google+, and Youtube postings.  The photos above are of the bridge at night, the signs thanking the public for their patience, and the ribbon moments before it was cut.

Next up, we have...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A New Coffe Shop or Another Clash of the Titans?

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman. 

One of the losses the northside still feels since the tornado is the loss of the 42nd Avenue Station, a terrific coffee shop that had great food and regularly held live music performances.  Since the tornado the owner of the building and the 42nd Avenue Station owners have been locked in a legal storm of their own.  What little details are discussed publicly make it appear as if the property owner is the antagonist here.

Today as I drove past the place, I saw a new (to me at least) awning spanning the entryway of what once was the 42nd Avenue Station, this announcing Mykonos Coffee & Grill.  Mykonos is the Greek island where Zeus did battle with the Titans.  Could the name be symbolic of the struggles associated with emerging from the tornado?  Has the suit between the parties been resolved?  Is this an entirely new business or a new name with the same owners of 42nd still involved?  Does the Mykonos name indicate a possibility of Greek, or at least unique, food?

When will the place be open for business?

Why I'm voting for Blong Yang

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, image from Blong Yang's campaign website.

On November 6, I’m casting my ballot for Blong Yang as our next Hennepin County Commissioner for District 2.  Although his opponent, Linda Higgins, would likely not get my support after her stance on the Vikings’ Stadium, this is not a choice swayed by that issue.  I supported him before the DFL county convention (although Yang is a Democrat, he chose not to seek party endorsement for a non-partisan election), and far ahead of the primary.  In fact, I bought my house and had a Blong Yang sign in my yard before I even moved in a bed.

I was excited to hear of Blong’s entry into the race especially because of the first time we worked together…

Political Speeches at Lowry Bridge Opening

Post and videos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Every so often, I find myself turning into the north Minneapolis version of C-SPAN.  We have these great events, like the opening of the Lowry Bridge, and of course a parade of politicians have to have their say.  Most of the time, what's said is predictable (thanks to the community and the workers and the fellow politicians and the businesses and the children, etc.), although even in this set of speeches we have a few surprises.

In any case, these are our community leaders, and what they have to say at an event like this should be recorded and readily available.  That's where this blog comes in.

Several of our speakers touted the new bike lanes, and there was that surprise...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Avenue Eatery Has "Soft" Reopening

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

The West Broadway Business and Area Coalition posted on Facebook today that The Avenue Eatery was again open for business, and under new management.  I stopped by for a meal and to chat with the new folks about what I experienced before, in hopes those mistakes wouldn't be repeated.

My advice was to keep the basics on hand, keep employees dressed and acting professional, add outdoor seating, and just plain old make the place their own; don't just expect we'll come to you because you're here.  The community is hungry (and thirsty) for a good coffee shop, but the operative word is "good."  If the food and service isn't up to certain standards, we'll go somewhere else.

The folks working certainly seemed to take my comments to heart, and even responded about the outdoor seating with, "We'll have to get working on that with the council NOW to make sure it's ready by the spring."  Music to my ears.

Now about those standards, keep in mind that this is a SOFT opening and not the grand opening, which means...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Washington Ave N Gets More Pedestrian-Friendly

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Over a year ago, I posted about problems with sidewalks along Washington Avenue.  The walkways aren't wide enough, they aren't consistent enough to easily guide people to the Mississippi River, and they're far from wheelchair-friendly.  If you drive, bike, or walk along Washington between 26th and 22nd, you'll see that at least some of these issues are being addressed.  It's little signs like this that show progress in our community, and even something as mundane as sidewalk construction deserves to be documented.

Republican Sign Spammers or Fringe Candidates Who Really Like Irony?

The corner of 31st Ave N and 4th St N.
The 3100 block of Emerson Ave N.
The corner of 22nd and Emerson.
The corner of 24th and Emerson.
Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

There are probably many more pieces of sign spam like this.  But on my normal bike routes alone, I have seen Republican candidates Jim Lilly and Chris Fields have signs on at least four vacant lots.  This wouldn't usually be a problem except that in all four cases photographed above, the lots belong to either the City of Minneapolis or Hennepin County.  I find it rather ironic that the party that claims to promote self-reliance and eschews government dependence has two of its candidates using government land to promote themselves.

I can't tell if they're clueless  or if this is somehow an abstract, meta-political statement that's just going over my head.  Normally, I remove signs like this myself.  In this case however, I decided to make four separate 311 reports.  I'd like to think that these guys think the Democrats would want it this way.

Lilly, by the way, has a sparse 1-page campaign website where he asks, "What is the solution to today's problems?" and then responds to himself with "The only good social relationship for society involves a life-long commitment between a man and woman."  Over fifteen years ago, he sued the City of Minneapolis and won, thus preventing any municipality in Minnesota from offering domestic partner benefits.  As far as I can tell, this law has yet to be overturned.  So yeah, don't vote for this guy.

On Fields' campaign website, he talks about his humble beginnings, growing up knowing "'the stinging shame' of using well-meaning but poorly designed government programs like food stamps and welfare."  Apparently his campaign feels no such shame in using the government to promote his run against Keith Ellison.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Biking Instead of Driving - What I Wish I Knew About the Transition

Post and photo (NOT of my stolen bike) by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Six months ago, I took a challenge.  I participated in Thirty Days of Biking, in which people commit to getting on a bike at least once every day in the month of April.  I decided to take that a little further, and tried bicycling everywhere for that month.  I even cycled out to Roseville a few times to sign mortgage documents.  In the midst of closing on my house, my car needed repairs.  I elected to put those off as long as possible, and wound up using two wheels as my primary mode of transportation over the summer.

I used a smartphone app to track every single biking activity I did during this stretch, which also doubled as a self-diagnosis for obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Over the course of six and a half months, I did more than seven hundred three bicycle trips.  My median trip length was just 1.27 miles, proving that a car is largely unnecessary for me.  I cycled almost 1,500 miles since April.  My app also tracked elevation, and told me I ascended over 59,600 feet.  That's the height of Mount Everest, K2, and Minnesota's high point, Eagle Mountain, combined.

That transition isn't as daunting as one might think (I did save roughly $350 in fuel costs), but there are some things I wish someone would have told me about first.  For instance...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hennepin County District 2 Candidate Forum at the Capri

Post and videos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Last Thursday marked the first candidate forum between the winners of the primary election for Hennepin County District Two, Blong Yang and Linda Higgins.  Anyone driving past my home can see my support of Yang proudly displayed, and I will be writing more about that soon.  Now that my support has been disclosed, I will present the footage I shot with no further commentary.

More video footage after the jump...

A Crane at 11:00 PM, Second-Story Work Appears Illegal on Multiple Levels

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

I happened to be out on an evening stroll tonight, when I heard what sounded like a car engine starting and stopping repeatedly.  That's to be expected on a busy corridor like Penn.  But as I crossed 27th, I snapped the photos above.  These are from 2701 Oliver Avenue North, a property owned by Brandon C Fischer and Kevin Owen.  Sadly, this is not the first time I have blogged about this heap that appears to be held together by chicken wire and code violations.

This was, however, the first time I have seen and heard a crane and other power equipment running this late in the evening.  Odd work like this should always prompt a 311 report, but tonight it rose to the level of 911 because...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My Bike Was Stolen

Post and bottom photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman, top photo from an online auction that has already closed.

Man, I really liked that bike.  It was a red Ryder specialized twenty-four speed Hardrock model mountain bike with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.  Sorry, I got it jumbled up with Ralphie's description of the BB gun in "A Christmas Story."  Again.  That's how much I liked this bike, which is a red Hardrock Specialized 24-speed mountain bike.  I was an irresponsible bicycle owner and didn't take my own photograph or record the serial number.  So if anyone does find it, we're on the honor system for getting it back to me.

A few weeks ago, my bicycle of several years died on me.  I didn't get a full tune-up for far too long, and I'm sure that didn't help--yet another way you all can learn from my bad example.  Repairing that ride would have cost significantly more than what a used Hardrock was selling for, so I opted for the newer bike.

And what a difference that made!  I routinely clocked in a mile at about five or five and a half minutes on the old cycle, and shaved nearly a minute off that time with the new one.  I could make it up Farview hill without so much as breaking a sweat, and that was before the weather started to play a factor.  I planned on doing my first 50-mile bike ride with this one, knowing it was light enough for me to zip along and accomplish that goal.

Man, I really liked that bike.  I have only ever been truly passionate about three modes of transportation in my entire life.  In reverse chronological order, they are:  the Hardrock Specialized 24-speed bicycle, a 1990 Saab 900 S car, and a pogo bal.  I'm a child of the eighties, and I embrace that.

Last week at the Hennepin County Commissioner candidate forum at the Capri, I locked my bike up on the side of the building.  When I left, the bike was gone.  One of the attendees found a lock that was cut, and the thieves left behind the blue bike pictured above - a Pacific Regency, which doesn't sound nearly as cool as "Hardrock."  The bike that was left behind is way too small for me, its brakes only work in the Flintstones manner of stopping a moving vehicle, and shifting gears makes a sound like Optimus Prime with a sinus infection.  So I made it home on that, but that's about it.  If anyone's missing, or even wants, this particular bike, let me know.

By the way, I had a Kryptonite lock but it was a cord/chain style lock.  I thought that the Kryptonite brand was good enough to hold up to standard-issue bolt cutters.  Not the chain locks, apparently.  The folks at Behind Bars, who sold me the best bike a man could want, informed me that even those locks could be broken with bolt cutters in as little as 30 seconds.  Apparently the photo below is the kind of lock that actually prevents theft.  Oh sure, this lock can be broken too, but just like winning an argument on North Talk, it takes a whole lot of effort and in the meantime there are sparks flying everywhere.

What I'm left with now is a Huffy from Wal-Mart that was sitting unused in my parents' garage.  A Huffy!  It will get me around for the next few weeks until the weather is too cold for even me to ride.

Man, I really liked that bike. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Why is This Property Being Demolished?

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

No, honestly.  I really want to know.  The mere prospect of demolition here is entirely baffling to me.  The property in question, 2306 Penn Avenue North, is one of the nicest houses on the block.  In fact, after its pending demolition, there will be only one other house on that side of the street.  And it's not like that one is so grand.

If I had to pick which house to tear down, I'd move this family into the other house and get rid of this one.
Curtains covered the windows at 2306, so I couldn't see inside to know if there are any historical features left in the interior.  Based on the exterior, I'd guess there are.  For instance...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ober Sentencing Offers Plenty of Northside Connections

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Last week, Hennepin County Prosecutors sent two more mortgage fraudsters to prison for ten years.  James and Wendy Ober brokered approximately $23 million in loans, according to the Federal Housing Administration, much of which was facilitated by forgeries, identity theft, and other fraudulent and predatory practices.  Three northside properties were listed in the sentencing document - 4247 Sheridan Ave N (pictured above), 625 Morgan Ave N, and 1811 Upton Ave N.

Many of the business journals and other media that covered this story called the Obers' actions the "next wave of mortgage fraud."  A few years back, I met with several investigative authorities who asked me this very question.  They knew what the mortgage fraud of 2005-2007 looked like, but the housing crash and recession forced legal and institutional changes on the mortgage industry that made previous fraud difficult to replicate.  So what investigators wanted to hear from me and other housing professionals was what we were seeing as the new fraud.

What I described to them was almost identical to what the Obers were doing.  Namely...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Avenue Eatery Closes its Doors; Northisde Misses the Idea a Good Coffee Shop

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

As of September 21st, the Avenue Eatery on Broadway and Emerson closed its doors for the last time.  I'll miss what the coffee shop promised to be when it opened a year and a half ago.  But the place failed to deliver on its potential and was mostly a disappointment.  At its grand opening, soup, fresh sandwiches, cheesecake, and ice cream were all served.  Outdoor seating was available, with a longer-term permit supposedly in the works.  There was talk of live music coming to the eatery.  The management at the time seemed to have all the right pieces in place to bring the north side a truly great coffee shop.

But then...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Penn & Dowling Gas Stop Closed Amid Speculation

 Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

The gas stop at the corner of Penn and Dowling Avenue North was reported as closed on the North Talk Facebook group last week, although the cause is still uncertain.  A peek through the windows reveals shelves that are almost completely bare, suggesting that the station won't be reopening anytime soon.

The two theories being suggested are that the property was under contract for deed and defaulted on payments, and that the gasoline pumps were not measuring accurately.  If the latter is the cause, the gasoline could have been watered down somehow or the pumps could have been tampered with to distribute less gas than what was indicated.

Anyone with more information is encouraged to use the comment section on this blog.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

My First Prostitution Bust

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Disclaimer #1:  Alleged prostitution bust.
Disclaimer #2:  Prior to moving in, I had to convince people that this corner is not as tough as everyone thought it was.  After moving in, I realized it's not even as tough as I thought it was.  But stuff still goes down.

Last week as I was walking around, a semi pulled up and parked in the vacant lot right across the street from me.   "Well this certainly is unexpected," thought I.  The trucker hopped out of the cab and began to let his doberman out for a bit.  Not wanting to call 911 immediately, on the off chance the pit stop was so the dog could do his business, I took care of some business of my own down the street.  Upon return from Broadway Liquors, a woman in a sun dress crossed the street and called out to the trucker...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Winning the Jackpot at the West Broadway Farmers Market

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Thanks to a grant from Allina Health, the West Broadway Farmers Market offers a bike/walk raffle.  If you bike or walk to the market, you can enter into a raffle to win $25.  But there's a catch:  that money has to be spent at the next market.  I was a lucky winner two weeks ago, and cashed in my Broadway bucks last week.  The deals are so good that I actually had a hard time spending twenty-five dollars in one shot.

What does $25 get you at the West Broadway Farmers Market?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Ghost Pepper Infiltrates North Minneapolis

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman, second photo contributed.

Two years ago, I was the first (crazy) person in the area to blog about the bhut jolokia, the hottest pepper on the planet.  Since then, another pepper, the Trinidad Scorpion, has on occasion been measured as hotter than the more commonly known ghost pepper.  While I have yet to try the latter, the former has made its way into our daily lives.  Okay, not daily; the human digestive system is not made to handle regular ghost pepper consumption.  But more and more places are including the spice as an option in their meals.

The top two photos are from Papa's Pizza.  After Dan Hylton's CD release concert, I stopped by Papa's for a quick bite.  As the cook saw me pouring the red chili pepper flakes on my slider, he said, "If you like the hot stuff, I've got something REALLY hot for you.  That is, if you can handle it."

"You don't mean...the ghost pepper?"  I inquired.  Sure enough, he brought out a small container for me to add to my food.  when he saw me take down most of that container while only having a few sips of water, he gave me a bag of five or six peppers to take home.  In a nice community touch, these were grown at The Warren, which hosted Dan Hylton's concert that evening.

So I took home the peppers and made...