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...