Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Military Order of Cooties

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

The Faith Tabernacle Gospel Church has been on the corner of 21st Ave N and 4th St N longer than I've been in the neighborhood.  Part of their sign just kind of faded into the background and I never looked too closely at it--until yesterday.  The sign reads, "Antsinpants RT. 14 Military Order of Cooties," and may just be the weirdest thing in Hawthorne.  That's saying a lot.

Apparently there are a whole slew of "fun and honor" orders of military vets out there, although I'm still unclear as to what exactly the cooties people did.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Where the Sidewalks End

 Post, photos, and image by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

When my family went to Finland a few summers ago, one cultural difference they picked up quickly was what was considered "a short walk."  Essentially anything under two miles was a "short" walk, and about 1.5 - 2 miles was no reason to get into the car and drive.  The walking route above is a 2.25-mile round trip, meaning that much of downtown Minneapolis is only "a short walk" from many parts of NoMi.

The problem, though, is that along significant stretches of Washington Ave. N and 2nd St N., saying the sidewalks are in a state of disrepair would be a charitable statement--assuming the sidewalks exist at all.  To make matters worse, it's actually easier to navigate your way to the Mississippi River by bike than it is on foot.  The bike lanes, while lacking a direct route, are at least clearly defined.  Pedestrians have to guess where sidewalks start and stop, or contend with heavy industrial traffic if they are to reach the Mississippi River on foot.

The photo above is at the corner of...

Using New Bike Lanes to Nghia's (Again)

Post, photos, and image by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Once again, I brought my car to Nghia's Auto Service on 42nd and Thomas.  The wheels made this odd, high-pitched sound that would be easy to drown out if you suffered from tinnitus.  A friend who knows her stuff mechanically said she thought it was the wheel bearings, and it should cost between $120-$180 to fix.  I left my car in Nghia's care and asked him to also fill the air conditioning.  That way, even if the car started making funny noises, I could fix the problem myself by rolling up the windows and turning on some music.

Turns out that the wheel coverings were loose, and Nghia tightened them up at no charge.  I'm clueless enough about cars that he could have said something like, "Yeah it was the debentured right axle sprocket that was wearing down.  We fixed that right up for you."  And I would have believed him and paid him for it.

Biking to and from the place, I tried out as much of the new lanes being put in on Fremont Ave N as I could.  Once they're complete, that will totally calm traffic on the street.  It looks like on the one-way segment from Plymouth to 33rd, there will be one lane of traffic, parking, and a bike lane.  All it will take is one car going the speed limit, and the reckless drivers who carom down Fremont at 45 mph will have to slow down.  This will be great for bikers, drivers, and pedestrians alike.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mayor Rybak at Peace Vigil: "Who is ARMING our KIDS?!"

Post and videos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

I don't know that I've ever seen Mayor Rybak express grief and pain and outrage like this before.  There will be more to say on the peace march today, but for now, these videos need to be shared.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Community Organizing with Hot Peppers

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

The last time I attempted anything resembling gardening was when my brother and sister-in-law gave me a commemorative Barack Obama Chia Pet as a gag gift.  (Yes, this is a real thing.)  I followed the basic instructions; mix a paste with the seeds, cover the head, and keep it watered and in a sunlit place.  In just a few short days my diligence paid off when absolutely nothing came up.  This was appropriately symbolic, and happened right around the time when Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for...well that wasn't exactly clear.  So I just bestowed the title of "Best Chia Obama Ever" on my newfound paperweight, and promptly forgot about it.

When it came time to participate in the EcoVillage community garden, I wasn't exactly overflowing with confidence that I'd be able to grow much of anything.  I knew I wanted to try growing some kind of hot peppers, but didn't have my hopes up.  I picked out some basic peppers from a seed catalogue (banana, bell, jalapeno, and thai chilis) and got my plot started.  The peppers have grown and multiplied beyond all expectations.  For those of you who have yet to do your own gardening, here's why this is a problem...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Reflections on Recent Shootings

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, above video from Kare 11, video after the jump from EvenToddlers51 on Youtube.

First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the recent violence, and to their families and loved ones.  I can't imagine what they must be going through.  At a neighborhood meeting last night, residents spoke about how the spate of violence has rocked our community.  People don't feel safe in some of the most basic situations.  When neighbors see kids out on bikes, they are scared - either for the kids or worried one of them might have a gun.  Seeing our youth outside on bikes should be something we look forward to instead of something that causes fear.

There are other posts I plan on writing here on North by Northside, but it seems out of place to go about those posts without at least acknowledging the series of shootings this week.  A few thoughts...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Metrodome Festivities

Post, photos, and images by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Saturday marked the re-opening of the Metrodome, with a portion of the event aimed at thanking tornado volunteers and building community.  I was one of the first 3,000 people to enter, and so I received a commemorative piece of the previous teflon roof that collapsed in last winter's snowmaggedon.  I took a roundabout way to get to the Dome, in order to bike along the final segment of the Cedar Lake Trail.  That particular connection to the Mississippi River cost $9.2 million and took over 11 years to complete.  A similar, more ambitious, connection in NoMi could take even longer to build.  That's no reason to get rid of the proposal entirely, as some groups are recommending.

The Cedar Lake connection to the Mississippi River is quite the sight though...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Battle Against Phone Book Dumping Continues

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

For well over two years, I have battled my nemesis, the Dumpinator 3000, a heartless, faceless villain intent on littering unwanted phone books (and at times, the New York Times) throughout NoMi.  My recovery from Dumpinator-related injuries wasn't always easy, but gradually the Dumpinator lost its power.  In a small, yet significant victory for the Hawthorne Hawkman, the Dumpinator and its minions have largely ceased dropping phone books off at vacant properties.

Instead, the Dumpinator dumped eleven phone books at the corner of 22nd Avenue North and 4th Street North.  The Hawkmobile had an extra heavy-duty garbage bag left over from cleaning up garbage on 4th St.  The waterlogged books weighed down the bag almost to the breaking point, but left the Hawkman undaunted.  And so the increasingly feeble efforts of the Dumpinator 3000 were vanquished yet again.

(And yes, a call to the Yellowbook offices on Monday is in order.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Pioneering Business, an Abandoned Riverfront Property, and Sushi

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Part 2 of "More Ways to Find the River"

Did you fill out the survey yet?  Friday the 19th is the last day to tell MRDI to keep the Farview land bridge.

 As you bike from NoMi down the River to downtown, there is a nondescript, gray and brown building near the Mill Ruins Park.  Many people know it already, and probably some don't.  One of my neighbors called it to my attention as we were discussing opportunities for development along the Mississippi.  He was so specific in his description of the building that he had me convinced I knew which one it was.  Eventually I had to admit I had no clue what he was referring to.

So I went out for some sushi.

The Fuji-Ya site along the river is now owned by the Park Board.  It's been sitting vacant for decades, we (as in our local government) have site control, and it sits on a key part of the riverfront.  Being north of the Stone Arch Bridge, it was within the geographic area set out by the Mississippi Riverfront Design Initiative.  So why wasn't it included in the lead proposal?  Surely something must be afoot, we thought.

In conversations with some of the planners, we found we were only half right.  The Fuji-Ya site was left out of the design because there have already been some plans in the works for it, and because the group wanted to focus on areas of the Mississippi farther north and outside of downtown.

A brief history of Fuji-Ya is in order, but first, about that order of sushi...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Suspicious Patterns of Behavior at 26th Ave and 4th St N

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Sitting on a friend's porch just off of the problematic areas of 4th St N, we get to observe quite a bit of what starts to go on.  And one thing we've noticed as cameras have been in place is that cars will frequently stop one or two houses in from 26th and 4th.  They sit there for two minutes, maybe three.  Very rarely does anyone come up to the car, and even less often does a driver or passenger get out.  Why is that?

Given the kinds of behavior observed along the corridor, we believe it's likely that occupants of those vehicles are communicating with whoever they need to in regards to where a safe place is to do their deals.  I suppose the other possibility is that we are beseiged by city planners from an alternate future, who are coming down 26th Avenue North, getting lost, and saying to each other, "Shouldn't there have been a land bridge somewhere around here?"

Don't Sell the Farview Land Bridge Down the River!

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, image from Minnpost.

(Just to be sure this point doesn't get missed:  Take the MRDI survey and tell them how important a land bridge is.)

Letters of support for the Mississippi Riverfront Design Initiative have been pouring in.  However, several entities seem already to be dismissing the most innovative, groundbreaking aspect of the proposal:  The Farview Land Bridge.  The Above the Falls Citizens' Advisory Committee (AFCAC) states:

"We believe that the Farview Land Bridge provides a bold new connection that was not envisioned in the Above the Falls Plan, and we support this concept of a connection to the river for Minneapolis neighborhoods in North Minneapolis, which are disconnected from the river by I-94, railroads, and existing development. However, we wonder if the current proposal is too large, and suggest two smaller land bridges (the 2nd one being at 34th Avenue to connect Perkins Hill Park and Cityview School to the river), an example of this concept is the “River Terrace Pedestrian Deck and Grand Stair” described on page 80 of the Above the Falls Plan."
But at least AFCAC is somewhat supportive, even in their premature dismissal.  Friends of the Mississippi (FMR) takes a more direct approach in writing off the land bridge before it can even be initially explored as an option...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mayor Rybak Tours Nice Rides in NoMi

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

Today Mayor Rybak toured and promoted several Nice Ride stations in north Minneapolis.  The route started at UROC, then took a pit stop at the Avenue Eatery (where I joined up with them).  There, Rybak spoke briefly about the importance of the Nice Ride stations in NoMi.  I made sure to thank him for the new bike lanes on Emerson, and then he went off to do other business.  At the Avenue Eatery, I met the proprietors of a new bike shop in NoMi, located in the rear of the building on Broadway, between Emerson and Fremont.

Some criticism has been floating around that it's inappropriate for the mayor to do these tours or photo ops in north Minneapolis while we're still struggling with the tornado recovery.  I disagree, and to the extent I would criticize the mayor today, I'd say I wish he could have stayed with the group for the entirety of the bike tour.  And I believe it's possible to work on tough, ongoing issues over north while still highlighting some of the positive amenities like Nice Ride kiosks.

Thanks, Mayor Rybak, and thanks Nice Ride!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More Ways to Find the River

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Part 1 of 2.  Part 1 includes fishing and part 2 gives us sushi.

Last weekend I joined a friend of mine down by the River while we just watched how people used the Mississippi at various points in and near NoMi.  Both of us believe that some of the easiest ways to get more people connected to the Mississippi include watching how people already use the river, and then enahcing those things.

(Sidebar:  I spoke with north Minneapolis' park board rep, John Olson, at a recent meeting.  I expressed my dissatisfaction that nobody knew about the wakeboarding championships.  In spite of the fact that the Park Board obviously knew about the event but did nothing to publicize it, Olson remained steadfast that this was not their responsibility.  In most cases, I'd agree; it's not the park board event, and they can't be expected to publicize everyone's shindig on park land.  Still, I was not satisfied with his answer.  Later in the meeting, John Irwin, the Park Board president, asked the group what would make them more likely to use the Mississippi River. about if we knew when cool stuff was happening?)

Back to the photos above, and the thoughts they inspired...

Same Problem Properties, Different Fluorescent Placards

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Slowly but surely the city of Minneapolis is moving forward with its demolition of the infamous property at 2222 4th St N.  Given Mahmood Khan's persistent legal battles, I wouldn't recommend holding one's breath until demolition actually happens.  But a pink placard has now been posted, informing passersby that the house has a date with the backhoe of doom

Not too far away, we have two properties in a row owned by Mohammed Amro - he of the "Mr. Slummy" moniker AND the slumlord inadvertently responsible for the "Hawthorne Hawkman" nickname.  The property in question though, is not 2515 3rd St N, where a hole to china was attempted, and the owner clearly intended to make a mockery of city zoning by bringing in at least four units to an area where only duplexes are allowed.  The second floor open to the elements, and the grass growing tall enough to warrant a 311 call are pretty strong indicators that Mr. Slummy has given up that dream.  Amro, however, owns the adjacent house at 2519 3rd St N.  From the exterior, it has looked like he's done somewhat respectable work there.  If we didn't have the immediate juxtaposition of 2515 3rd, one could almost assume Mr. Slummy was not, well, slummy.

But then there was the fire.  For almost a year, the house has sat vacant, with little or no repairs done.  A week ago, a shiny new placard was added to the regulatory rainbow.  One would think that somehow the house's fire-damaged status caused the citation.  Instead, the house is unfit for habitation because of unsafe levels of lead.  This is a first.  Other slumlords like to hide behind lead abatement (even as they strip historic elements of a property).  Mr. Slummy aparently took the ball in the complete opposite direction.

How long before one or both of these properties sports a similar pink card, calling for demolition?

Bike Lanes Striped on Emerson

Post, photos, and image by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

This week the bike lanes on Emerson, from Plymouth Avenue to 33rd Avenue North, were striped in.  It was great to see cars going much slower on Emerson as a result of the narrower lanes, and plenty of new riders were spotted coming past the Hawthorne office--including the Bike Cops for Kids.

For this most recent addition to biking in NoMi, no parking spaces were lost either.  The trip from Plymouth to 33rd along Emerson Avenue North takes about five minutes.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

More Friedman's Historic Photos

November of 1949

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

When I stopped by Friedman's to pick up new shoes, they also showed me pictures they had from 1949 and way back in 1889.  What a great look into the past.  The pictures will go up on Historypin soon.  In the meantime, I'm looking for ways to acquire historic photos for free or at a reduced price.  Places like the Minnesota Historical Society have numerous pictures, but the fees to re-use them can get pretty expensive.  I've no desire to use such pictures without the proper permission.

So does anyone know where old photos of NoMi can be found?

Bike Lanes Coming on Emerson

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

I happened to notice city workers marking spots on Emerson Avenue North, in ways that looked like they were adding bike lanes.  After snapping a few photos, I confirmed that's exactly what they were doing.  The lanes themselves won't be fully painted until sometime this week at the absolute earliest.  And from a post on the Upper Willard-Homewood listserv, it's clear that there is still public discussion happening around bike lanes along Emerson and Fremont, from Plymouth to Webber Parkway.

The announcement reads:

Emerson Avenue Bike Lane Meeting

A meeting has been scheduled to discuss a potential bike lane and traffic calming on Emerson Avenue North:

Wednesday, August 17 6:30 p.m. Webber Park Community Center, 4400 Webber Pkwy.
Minneapolis Public Works staff has created a draft list of traffic calming locations based upon the feedback of block club leaders along Emerson Avenue. They would like to present this draft list to the community for comment. Traffic calming improvements would slow down motorists, improve pedestrian safety, and add greenery to the street. These changes would also pave the way for Emerson Avenue to be designated as a north-south bicycling route, connecting the Webber Parkway bike path with future bike routes on Emerson and Fremont Avenues south of 33rd Avenue. No parking will be taken out. For more information contact Shaun Murphy, 612-333-2450 or Visit the web page at

Great Work from Nghia's (Pronounced Nee-Yas) Auto

Post and image by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

And you can bike there easily too!

This week I needed brake work done on my car.  My normal place for repairs, Vina Auto on 26th and Emerson, was full.  But when the brakes were acting up as badly as they were, I couldn't wait.  Quite a few northside friends had "checked in" at Nghia's Auto Service Center on Facebook, and I had heard plenty of praise for Nghia and his work. In fact, that link will take you to a Google search result for Nghia's Auto, in which there isn't a single negative review.  His work was fast, reasonably priced, and high quality.

I was near the Irving Triangle on my bike when he called, so I mapped out my route back to my car.  The trip was 2.75 miles, and took me only 13 minutes.  From that perspective, it looks like you can get just about anywhere in NoMi by bike in 15-20 minutes.

Friday, August 5, 2011

My First Friedman's Shoes

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

If you've never read Ray Bradbury's summer opus Dandelion Wine, you're missing out on a literary masterpiece.  However, this is a book that simply should not be read in any other season.  You can certainly appreciate the quality of the writing while curled up under a blanket in the chill of wintertime, but once you get past Labor Day, the magic of the book is gone for another eight months.  I bring this up because an early chapter in that book has the main character, Douglas Spaulding, longing for a new pair of shoes.

"The tennis shoes felt like it always feels the first time every year wading in the slow waters of the creek and seeing your feet below, half an inch further downstream, with refraction, rather than the real part of you above water...The people that made the shoes must have watched a lot of winds blow the trees and a lot of rivers going down to the lakes.  Whatever it was, it was in the shoes, and it was summer."

For the longest time, I've bought my shoes from malls, department stores, or most soul-crushing of all, outlet shops.  Can you believe that until yesterday I hadn't once set foot inside Friedman's?  The shame.  But as soon as I walked into this store--no, emporium is the only word that appropriately describes the place--this chapter of Bradbury came rushing to the front of my mind.  The enchantment that is found in a new pair of shoes is somehow already worn thin when plucking a pair off the discount rack at Kohl's. 

But here, every pair held limitless possibilities.  The basketball shoes would have you leaping over dogs, fences, or even houses.  The two-toned Stacy Adams would make a night of salsa dancing seem effortless, even without lessons.  The hiking boots had already been to the mountaintop and would easily take you there.  The Voltron shoes--sweet lord, there are VOLTRON SHOES!!!!  When I found out that they came with this:

Part of me really wanted to buy these sneakers.  Badly enough that I contemplated whether I'd be taken seriously if I showed up at a city council hearing wearing shoes emblazoned with the Black Lion, Keith.  (I know I wouldn't have credibility of any sort if I wore anything with Princess Allura.  I mean, come ON.)  As it turns out though, each pair of Voltron shoes comes only with one corresponding piece of the toy.  I would need to buy all five to get the action figure.  Maybe another time.

The magic Douglas Spaulding's shoes made him feel like "antelopes...gazelles."  Me, I'll settle for a pair that hearkens images of giant mechanized lions.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Hofstede Staff Timer

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photo from Johnny Northside.

An anonymous comment came in on the most recent blog post since I installed the latest widget on this blog.  In the observance of what I call "threadiquette," I'm creating a new post where a discussion around the issue of Hofstede's staff turnover (and my treatment of it on this blog) can take place. 

Wakeboarding Championships Wrapped Up on Sunday

Post, photos, and videos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Last week, I groused about the lack of communication surrounding the national wakeboarding championships that were occurring right here in our neighborhood.  While I thought this was a one-day event, it turns out the competition stretched over several days.  An intrepid neighbor sent me the following texts,

"This is the biggest event of the year to occur in North Minneapolis and no one is here to record it."

"And I didn't realize it was swimmable here.  Hot chicks in bikinis totally swimming in the river.  And free Rock Star energy drinks."  (For the record, this friend was looking out for me, and would have been happier with the buff, shirtless dudes.  This event had something for everyone.)

"I just realized *if* Broadway Pizza had a patio, people could be on the patio with beers watching this too!"

And the coup de grace, "Get yo ass down here now!"

So get down I did, and saw...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Hawkman Link Roundup

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, video from MerasZuokas.

First up, I don't think the video above is real.  It's probably staged, but even so, allow me to break down why this is the single most awesome Youtube clip that will ever be created.  First off, the mayor of this town combines my passion for small-scale, quality-of-life issues with the G.I. Joe-related daydreams that keep so many of us from getting anything done.  In case you're the kind of person who reads articles without watching videos, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, has been struggling with how to keep luxury cars from parking in the city's bike lanes.

"What should the city do about drivers who think that they are above the law?  It seems that a tank is the best solution."  THIS IS AN ACTUAL QUOTE FROM THE MAYOR.  Can you imagine what our city council meetings would be like if they were often punctuated with "It seems that a tank is the best solution"?  We could charge money for people to attend, and would fill our meetings to capacity every time.  What should we do about crime on 4th St N, or prostitutes at Penn and 26th?  It seems that a tank is the best solution.  2222 4th Street North needs to be demolished, in spite of Khan's pesky lawsuits?  It seems that a tank is the best solution.

But then, after destroying the Mercedes with a tank, he shakes the hand of the emasculated driver - it's really the gentlemanly thing to do.  The mayor finishes by sweeping up the shards of broken glass off the street.  That level of class is what puts the clip at the top of my ratings.

Locally, a recent article in the Strib details a different example of people taking matters into their own hands, by removing...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Third Street Deluge

Post, video, and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

This is what was waiting for me as I came home for lunch today.  At the time, the water was so high I had to park a block away and enter my place through the alley.  Even the sidewalks on 3rd Street were at least ankle-deep in water.  People were actually foolish enough to try and drive through the flood-like conditions, and cars had stalled out at the intersection of 3rd and 26th.