20.3.09

Sidewalk Flotsam #2


[A teddy bear in a tree near the State Capitol, Saint Paul.]




[Humpty Dumpty fallen next to the sidewalk in Kingfield neighborhood, Minneapolis.]




[A blown-up couch in the Ayd Mill gully near Grand Avenue, Saint Paul.]




[Trash being dumped in front of the student union on the U of MN campus, Minneapolis.]




[A hockey skate on a bench in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood, Saint Paul.]




[Phone books left on the corner in the North End neighborhood, Saint Paul.]




[A bowl on the sidewalk downtown, Minneapolis.]



[A mattress and chair in the North End neighborhood, Saint Paul.]

15.3.09

***Newsflash Sunday***

Sidewalk Rating: Carpe Via!

Well, after the week from below zero, there's something in the air. I went on a bike ride yesterday through the streets of Saint Paul and it was amazing!

There is something afoot on the Twin City sidewalks this weekend.




Here is my checklist of people seen on Saint Paul sidewalks:
  • Kids on trikes
  • Kids on bikes
  • Kids in wagons
  • Kids playing basketball
  • Kids playing wiffleball
  • Kids playing catch
  • Kids running around
  • Kids wearing costumes
  • People holding hands
  • Parents walking with kids
  • Parents walking without kids
  • Kids walking without parents
  • Joggers in T-shirts
  • Joggers in track suits
  • Joggers in sweat suits
  • Dogs running around with owners
  • Dogs running around without owners
  • Owners chasing dogs running around without owners
  • Cats running around without anyone
  • People on bicycles
  • People on scooters
  • People on motorcycles
  • Cool dude in a convertible with the top down

But mostly, it was:

  • People walking around like zombies without really going anywhere or doing anything

Out there on the sidewalks these days, it's kind of like The Night of the Living Dead. Except you might call it, Day of the People Who Haven't Been Outside in Six Months. But the effect is the same. People are just wandering around aimlessly with blank looks of surprise on their faces. It's kind of amazing. So get out, and join the aimless crowd!


<<<>>>

This ad from Australia for slowing down when you drive through cities is pretty amazing!




Of course, it's absolutely true. I read an article on this just the other day in The Journal of Bio-Social Correlation. I am continually amazed by the sexual liberation gap between the US and the rest of the world!


<<<>>>


In case you missed it, here's a great travelogue of a cross-country Amtrak voyage from the NY Times. It reminds me of my trips the last two summers, except that this guy might have had a few more stories.

I particularly like this description of an Amtrak employee:

Meals on board are white-tableclothed affairs; however, these days the $22 flat iron steaks are served on plastic replicas of Amtrak’s former china. Passengers are seated together. For dinner, I enjoyed my cheese ravioli across from an Amish man from Minnesota who was escorting his wife home from hernia surgery in South Carolina. (Many Amish are uninsured, he told me, and some take trains to Mexico for less costly medical care.)

After he finished, one of the attendants — not the 27-year veteran with eyebrows painted red-and-blue Amtrak stripes and a customized “Amtrak” belt buckle sparkling with bling, but the other — seated a couple from suburban Colorado. He was a retired defense contractor; she, a former Delta flight attendant.


But, its one of the only places I've ever seen where the diverse classes and cultures of this country mingle on a nearly level plane...


<<<>>>


I saw this a while ago, and love the concept. It's a sandal with flower seeds embedded in the rubber so that, as you walk and wear out the shoe, it plants little plants along the sidewalk in random places.

Here's the technical info:
The Johnny Applesandal allows the customer to buy into a cyclical system of conscientious consumption, proactive environmental cleansing, and material reclamation. Phytoremediating seeds are contained within the sandal. As the footwear is used, the soles wear thin exposing seed channels. This allows seeds to slowly escape. Phytoremediating plant species are known to contribute to the environment by breaking down toxic substances and naturally cleansing soil and water. Once the seeds have been sown, and the soles are worn out, the shoes are returned to the manufacturer for disassembly and material reclamation.



It's like Hansel and Gretel, only you are leaving a trail of green life behind you. Years later, you could find all the trees and flowers you'd left behind.


<<<>>>


Three photos for you!

1) Street art in NYC -- h/t Wooster Collective


2) Nicollet Avenue in 1904 -- h/t Stuff about Minneapolis


3) Nicollet Avenue during the last blizzard -- h/t Uptown Mpls Blog

9.3.09

Signs of the Times #12


Cigarettes Butt
here!!! Thanks

[Sign on can on sidewalk in a place that is not in the Twin Cities, as far as I can recall.]




NO Solicitation!
We DON'T give out
change for meters!

[and]

SORRY we will be
CLOSED on
08 * 08 * 08
For a Family Wedding
Love, Jasmine Oriental

[Two signs on restaurant door in Stadium Village, Minneapolis.]



Books
$ ->

[Sign on Maryland Avenue in East Side, Saint Paul.]




FOUND
CAT!
White With
Tan Spots
De-Clawed
& Friendly!

[Sign at church on Park Point drive in Duluth, MN.]




$700
REWARD
Our dog has gotten
Loose!! She is a [illegible]
Brown pitbull 3 months old.
If you see her please call...

[Cardboard sign on tree on Front Avenue in North End, Saint Paul.]




FISHING
OPENER
CLOSED
TILL
MAY 17

[Sign on door of Ran-Ham Lanes bowling alley in Saint Paul.]




Keep Off
The Grass

[Classic sign on lawn of KSTP studio in Saint Paul.]

5.3.09

Welcome to the Dinkydome

[A broken door, barred to the world. It sits on the sidewalk like an omen. 'Do Not Enter', it says. 'This Space is Lost.]

On the corner of University Avenue and 15th, it sits. Rather, it looms, rising above the Victorian chimneys of Folwell Hall, the shambled fraternities, the huddled streets of Dinkytown. It looms above it all, its dark iron dome silently waiting for your inevitable death.

You see, something is wrong in the Dinkydome. Businesses open and die like insects. The massive brick structure seems out of time, out of place. The stores inside it grit their teeth in desperation, clinging to solvency like kittens to a branch. The building eats its own, and nibbles at your soul. Nobody can sit inside the Dinkydome without feeling a cold clammy sensation on the back of the neck. It is anxiety, insecurity, a sense of overwhelming suspension...

For high overhead, the dome looms. It is haunted, spooked, cursed. Or it is a broken space, a hollow space, empty of life. It is dead. The building sits like a corpse, looming over the street far below...

But why? What happened here? What caused this building to go so terribly wrong? Was it always this way? Did someone leap from this high dome-side balcony, landing terribly onto the be-napkin'd floor?




[The sign overhead reads: "Jesus is the way of truth and life."]


When it was built, the building housed a Bible College, and a certain eschatoogical sprit still lingers inside its brick walls. Is it God? I think not. Rather, I can sense biblical wrath, hovering inside the public restrooms... You can still find religion today, somehow, as the third story office space is ridiculously inexpensive and houses the least among us, like church groups and Army recruiters.

I used to go to the DinkyDome quite often when I was younger, attending the U of MN as a high school senior. There was something exciting and chaotic about the space, its chaos and disorder. At the time, there was an excellent pizza place where you could get big slices of interesting pie, and the typical Chinese restaurant, the Taco John's, the world's most depressing Indian buffet. (As of a few weeks ago, they'd gone and been replaced by an Armenian joint, the Espresso coffee place run by the really nice man...)

But I was young back then. It turns out that the sub-dome foodcourt was always a terrible place. The way the space is arranged, with all the tables and chairs lumped together in one big blob, makes it impossible to feel comfortable. Almost everyone will immediately sit around the outside edge of the space, and when it fills up one has no choice but to sit somewhere in the chaotic middle, trapped and surrounded beneath the impending dome. Further off to the side, an alterior space with equally dismal chairs and tables waited for you, nothing well lit, nothing to comfort the soul. Eating at the Dinkydome was like attending a Bible College. You had to sit up straight and pay attention or you'd find yourself with a lot to confess.

[The only good space in the building was in the coffee shop, where the light poured in the large 2nd story windows.]


Back in the 1950s, famous urban design critic William H. Whyte did a study of modernist public plazas in New York city, looking at how people used the spaces in front of office buildings to sit, hang out, and talk. One of the most important things he found out was that plazas and spaces needed to be level with the street. Steps, either up or down, tended to greatly depress and diminish the amount of traffic entering a building or space.

William Whyte would have hated the Dinkydome. In order to get into the space, you have to climb what a terribly awkward set of stairs, leading up into the high second story food court and under-dome space.


[Every time I climbed these stairs, I cursed myself.]


Of course, it's all gone now. The building's been bought, and is being remodeled to fit into some sort of giant student housing complex.

Good luck to them. I can't help but believe that the new student building will be one of the worst things in Minneapolis. Too many accursed students have gone into and out of this building's domed balcony, too many hungover bodies have dragged themselves up these mammoth staircases, too many bad styrofoam plates of sesame chicken have been digested... No matter how thoroughly they gut it, there is no salvaging this place.

Dinkydome, Rest in Pieces.


[The Dinkydome always reminded me of the Hiroshima Dome, the only building to survive the US's Fat Boy atomic strike. Both buildings have a magical, doomed quality. Each building will outlast us all.]

3.3.09

Texan Cult of the Week: God's Salvation Church


[This is content recycled from my now mothballed website, www.excitablemedia.com. Please enjoy!]

Yes it's true that, during the summer of '97, the new James Bond movie was being released. But, looking up one day and seeing the numerals "007" written across the polluted LA sky, Hon-Ming Chen, ex-political science professor and leader of an expatriate Taiwanese cult named God's Salvation Church (GSC), knew he had to relocate to Texas. He chose the Dallas suburb of Garland because, to him, it sounded like "god's land." He soon declared to his hundreds of cult followers that Garland was where God's spaceship would land on March 31, 1998, to take the cult to the afterlife.

[Gazebo spaceship.]

Oh. I almost forgot. He also said:

  • God would appear on Channel 18 on every television set in the United States beginning at midnight on March 25.
  • When God made his TV appearance, he would look exactly like Chen.
  • Because people would become bored simply listening to God (looks exactly like Chen) speak, God would also show movies and other entertainment programming.
  • God (looks exactly like Chen) will be able to speak all languages and walk through walls.
  • Also, God (looks exactly like Chen) will replicate himself as many times as necessary, in order to greet everyone simultaneously.
  • And, finally, Chen (not God, just Chen) said: "If you often eat the buttocks of chicken, you will soon find you have a pain in your ass."

Contrary to popular belief, Chen's cult, also known as the Chen Tao, did not plan to commit mass suicide, and they made quite a stir when they bought a series of houses on Garland's Ridgedale Avenue. Not oblivious to the value of public relations, members of the Chen Tao bicycled en masse through town distributing flyers expressing the group's appreciation "of your tolerating our activity in the neighborhood as well as your magnanimous acceptance."

[The third degree.]

The cult didn't make everyone in the quiet suburban neighborhood happy, however, and there was strict enforcement of civic occupancy and building ordinances, particularly when the GSC started building a concrete "gazebo" in Chen's backyard. Fortunately, hostility remained, for the most part, latent. Sure, cult members didn't frequent the "UFO sale" at the local pawn shop, but Mrs. Massey didn't really need their business anyway.

Cult/non-cult tension gradually approached the boiling point as the day of the prophecy neared. Due to intense media pressure, police were called in and cordoned off the neighborhood. Until finally, on March 31, when nothing happened, Chen gave reporters a stunning speech. Calling his prophecies "nonsense," he gave reporters ten minutes in which to stone or crucify him.

No one obliged.

God's Salvation Church moved on. Driving a fleet of white Crown Victorias, they traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia in search of the "Canadian Christ," and to Gary, Indiana to drink the sacred waters of Lake Michigan, before finally settling in a quiet town North of Niagara Falls, New York.



[For some time cult leader Chen declared that increased contrail incidence was due to UFO activity in preparation for God's arrival. When he learned about his proximity to the Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport, Chen replied, "a multi-continental shift into the second dimension will result in a dramatic increase in airplane crashes."]


1.3.09

Twin Cities Shovelers #1

[Woman shoveling snow on Western Avenue in Saint Paul.]



[Man scraping ice on University Avenue in Minneapolis.]



[Man shoveling snow on Como avenue in Saint Paul.]



[Man shoveling snow on Front Avenue in Saint Paul.]



[Man shoveling snow on Western Avenue in Saint Paul.]



[Man shoveling snow on University Avenue's frat row in Minneapolis.]



[Students shoveling snow on University Avenue's frat row in Minneapolis.]



[Man shoveling snow near Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis.]