2020-01-24

Reading the Highland Villager #251

[A desperate Villager in a Trader Joe's parking lot.]
[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free. See also: Three Reasons Why I Re-Blog the Highland Villager.]



Headline: City study calls for reorganization of Police Department; Among reforms is hiring of 103 more employees
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council asked the Police Department to do a study of themselves to see how many more police officers they should hire. A Police Commander looked into it, and came up with the following answer: a lot. [I did a study just now of how much local sidewalk bloggers should be paid, and I my initial findings suggest that local sidewalk bloggers should be given a 1003% increase in compensation.] 


Headline: Moratorium on charter schools is debated
Author: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: There are more charter schools now. Many people dislike this.


Headline: Boutique hotel opens on Summit
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old mansion is a hotel now.


Headline: Liquor licenses sought for two proposed bars on West 7th
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A guy wants to turn an old building on West 7th into a bar; meanwhile, another person would like to sell booze in a new hotel.  In both cases, an obscure rule called a "commercial district" will have to be invoked to make this happen. Article explains what these districts are, and makes claims about "vibrant nightlife." [A guy walks into a  bar. Bartender says, hey this ins't a bar because there's a cap on the number of Ward 2 liquor licenses for some reason. Guy says, oh shoot, never mind. Both of them have a long face.] Quote from Planning Commissioner: "This seems like a weird use of our time." [O to be young and naive again!]


Headline: City receives six proposals to develop space above RiverCentre ramp
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A falling-down parking ramp might be reconstructed with big buildings on top of it. There are six proposals to do so. The city tried to get the state to pay for the ramp, so this is taking a different approach. CM Tolbert is quoted saying: "we haven't had success with our requests for bonding." [The government should not be subsidizing downtown parking ramps in the year of our lord 2020, anyway.]


Headline: HRA grants forgivable loan for firm moving to University Ave.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City is going to loan some money to a company moving offices to an empty building on University Avenue. [Seems fine.]


Headline: Met Council OK's $1.25 million subsidy for Lexington project
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A vacant lot might become an apartment building, and the project got some money from the Met Council. Neighbors are concerned that not enough of the apartments would be affordable.


Headline: Hearing set on new penalties for reselling parking permits
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: the City Council will have a meeting about whether or not, or how, people can sell parking permits in parts of the city where parking is limited to residents only. Some college students might or might not sell parking permits to each other. [The permit parking districts are badly designed, de facto unenforceable, and the permits far too cheap in the first place.]


Headline: UST faces on-street parking issues during campus construction
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Some people are parking their cars on the street. Some things on the St Thomas campus are under construction. Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking. Workers park cars on the street where people who own homes also park their cars. Some streets have [largely unenforceable] rules about who can park their cars. There might have been a parking lot built for empty cars to be parked at one point, but it did not get built because trees were there. Some people like new dorms being built, but not the cars parked by the people who build them. Some new dorms will have underground parking, for people to park their cars under the earth. [Sounds like there are too many cars.]


Headline: Commission approves concept plan for repurposing Highland 9-Hole
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A lesser-used golf course might be used for other activities like soccer, mini-soccer, pickleball and kick volleyball, as well as parking one's car, having picnics, or for water to run into the ground. There is no money for any of this yet, but might be someday. People are concerned about parking, costs of things and the health of trees. [One parks commissioner is named 'John Mountain', which is a great name for a Parks Commissioner to have.] One person spoke who really likes golf and wants more places to play golf.


Headline: Airport users advised to plan ahead during resurfacing of Hwy. 5
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A highway by the airport will have a construction on it this summer so it will take longer to get there.


2020-01-16

Twin City Myth #2: The Reign of Malor


These words — whose earlier legacy will be familiar to close readers of this blog —are written from my home office in the dead of winter. I upload them now for you to view online, in the hopes that someday we may better comprehend the strands of horror and madness that lurk on the surface streets of the strange Minnesota city that now serves as my home. In the few next paragraphs I will share with you all I have learned over these past days, the span of which have torn through my mind like an SUV on Kellogg Boulevard, barely a blur, recalling only the ancient carousel ride in Como Park, where the grim visages of the wooden horses that there reside are locked in an eternal rictus of pain and astonishment, their equine anguish forever drowned in the infernal jolly tune braying outward and unceasingly by the calliope at the center of that revolving contraption.

Some weeks ago, I was struck by a disturbing vision that I can barely describe. This image was quite sudden — though later I realized that I had been having premonitions, brief chaotic glimmering thoughts that formed a precedence for my indelible impression — and for the rest of the day my head ached with a singular feeling that something terrible was occurring. 

My cat, Djuna Barnes, felt this also. As she twitched her tail and curled at once into a ball, shunting the world itself away from her eyes, I realized that she, too, was struck with the angst that can only come from glimpsing a black sea of infinity. She placed her tail before her eyes and I could only wish that I myself had a prehensile appendage I might use to block the wintry landscape from my horizon.

As soon as my fragile legs permitted, I left my Frogtown home to trudge the streets of Saint Paul in search of a salve for my new fragility. Given the gruesome climate, this was a daunting task, and the streets and sidewalks were covered in the two-inch-thick layer of  ice, snow, and dirt that collided and mixed in chaotic and unpredictable fashion. With each falling step, the kaleidoscopic insanity of the city's surface tormented my passage, and yet I trudged onward, seeking respite from the anguish that had befallen my consciousness, the spectral and nameless horror that gripped my imagination. 

I wandered through the maze of hybrid squalor along University Avenue, passed over the dirty highway where a river of decaying automobile carcasses continued to lurch in both directions, belching toxic menace into the foul air that choked the very oxygen from my lungs. I do not know how long I walked or in what path I travelled that evening -- I remember nothing else from the voyage -- only that eventually I realized again where and when I was. 

Somehow, I had found myself pacing through that bleak crepuscular dusk that is the Ayd Mill trench, clutching my stained coat about myself and walking along a set of railroad tracks that ran through that parched and terrible valley under the moon. To my left, paralleling my forlorn steel path, was a concrete highway of such frightening state. Its very surface was pocked and cratered like the face of Steve Bannon himself, The Black One, The Filler of Space, who absorbs his victims within his featureless malevolence.

There below my grey sneakers lay the railroad, and afar I saw a stone monument protruding uncannily above the edges of the valley, as parts of an abandoned Chrysler may protrude from an ill-made Wisconsin junkyard. What this stone surface meant I did not know and could not fathom, but I found myself walking towards it nonetheless, as if pulled toward the bottom of a cold black lake to drown.  

As I approached the stone wall I examined its surface, which was intricate and ancient in form. The stones were of a pale almond hue, and had been set into a massive pillar that stood there for no apparent purpose. Each stone was joined to the next with a chalky substance whose origins I could not determine, and as I touched the old rock with a well-worn glove, I discovered a dark aperture near me, a singular rectangular stone marked with an ancient scrawl. In the waning moonlight I could make out only the symbols -- #KSPB -- though its significance I could not fathom.

This stone had clearly once served as monumental artifice, and without much thought, I cleared the snow and ice away the crevasse with my trusty beer opener keychain shaped like a pedestrian warning sign, a tool without which I am never to be found. With my iPhone flashlight, I peered inside the dark cavity to reveal what mysteries it might hold.

Inside was a tattered book of ponderous, archaic, and vaguely repellent aspect, thick with old paper and bound by some sort of rubbery substance. I removed it from its stony tomb, clutched it in my fingers, and nestled it underneath my coat. The touch of this book seemed to restore my balance, for instantly I felt the wind gusting through that cursed valley, and looked around me for a path of retreat.

Finding a break in the thick branches that stretched like a wheel-bender bike rack around the wasted margins of the foresaken slope, I climbed up the side of the bramble, following a barely discernible path through the dim wintry foliage. In time I had returned to the streets of my lifeless city, which crawling with the toxic steel carcasses of the death machines that launch themselves day and night through the spaces between buildings. Around me, avenues of limitless night radiated in every direction, and I was sure that somewhere here lay the root of a contagion destined to sicken and swallow the city itself.

After an hour of walking along the dreadful passages that the ice allowed, I had returned to my home and only then did I begin to make sense of what I had discovered in the dark mouth of that asphalt waste.

Seeking the safety and comfort of my study, I carried the book through my house, and it was at that moment that my cat, Djuna Barnes, edged herself between my feet and tripped me, as if a feline foreboding had struck both her and myself with its urgent word. The resulting intermingling of limbs overturned both my body and, at the same time, the weather-beaten tome I clutched. 

It fell to the floor and opened to a page, seemingly at random.

Startled, I found myself shifting at once to a sitting posture and gazing back along the hallway, as if into a tunnel to the outer world. My sensations were much like those which had made me shun Saint Paul at night, and were as inexplicable as they were poignant.

I looked upon the page that had opened upon the floor and gave witness to the following words:

COVER IT ALL

What this meant I did not yet fathom, though something about the cadence of the wretched syntax deflated my stomach like a flat tire. I immediately recovered my erstwhile sense of purpose, and retreated that night to my chambers, leaving the black book alone on the desk, for I dared not touch it.

Some days later, yet plagued by a grim unease, I resigned myself once more to tackling this unknown catalog. What I found will not come easy to those who value their security, and if you wish to retain your sense of calm about traversing this grim city, onto which nearly endless winter has once more befallen, I beg you to read no further.

With a trepid hand I opened the book, and began to make sense of its unkempt scrawl.

It was titled “Collected Records and Journals of Saint Paul Bike Scum”, which I can only imagine was reference to some hopeless population that once dwelled in the dank margins of the strange capital where I make my home. 

The notes were largely unintelligible to my eye, recordings of dates and names, crude cartoons made in thick marker, diagrams of cross-sections of streets, and many cursings of specifically named powers. Most of it was rendered a meaningless Babel to my eyes, but haunted by the words that had appeared to me in my moment of cat-addled gravity, I persisted.

On the eleventh page, I found it: a mention of Malor.  


“Who is Malor? What does it want?”

This was all that was written on the weathered paper, under the date November 19th, 1992. A great blank emptiness lay around it on the page, followed, oddly, whether by some ill intention or accidental befoulment, with subsequent pages which were rent and torn from the very book itself.

Malor… Malor… Malor...

The word repeated in my mind like the bells of St. Agnes toll from that grim tower, which even now glows green and alien over the shuttered homes of the odd city where I live. I fell to babbling over and over that unpronouncable name. But as always in my strange and roving existence, wonder soon drove out fear; and I pressed on to glean what I could from this malevolent abyss.

At this point, the crusty tome seemed to change in character. As as I read the journal, I found it less and less about street names and dates and the dark ways of city hall, and increasingly focusing its text around on that one singular name: Malor. 

The entry for January 9th, 2005, begrimed upon the page with the same scrawling hand:


Malor came into physical being a short time ago but has always been present in the universe. Born of deep cold in the hearts of the drivers, and the tears of children, Malor willed itself into physical being in order to torment the citizens and public works department of Saint Paul.

What did it mean? The name seemed familiar, like the instinctive desire to stop at a bar. I pressed on and, as the pages turned, spring and summer all but vanished from the entries of the text. Only the winter months remained.

Under December 28th, 2008, the manuscript mentioned Malor again:


No one is sure what Malor’s objective is - other than to cover it all. 

COVER IT ALL

As I turned the pages, comprehension spread like salt brine through my imagination. This Malor, the black, icy horror, was a creature of impenetrable coverage, oddly widespread and persistent, and covered the very streets of Saint Paul where I had tread but a few nights prior. Malor existed at this very moment, right outside our door. But where did it come from, and what did it want? 

Could Malor be connected to the Winter Carnival, the ancient cult of Vulcans and so-called royalty, the most visible and long-surviving of the secret societies that thrive in this fecund metropolis? Or was that merely a cheerful facade, beneath which the ancient and malevolent truth of Malor lurked like so many shards of glass in a bike lane?

February 4th, 2011:


The power and fortitude of the belly plow is our only hope for breaking the bond of Malor

This appeared to be one of the many times that this intrepid but doomed cult, which must be one and the same as the Bike Scum, had attempted in vain to end the reign of Malor, to vanquish the ungraspable being that had lay waste to the city streets. 

I later learned that they believed that Malor had always existed and always would exist, hidden under the snow and car tires of all streets of that worn city, and emanated somehow from a dark house in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood where poisonous discourse and terrible ideas were generated like a blizzard descending from the Canadian prairie.

From January 2012:


Only when Malor is at its weakest will a girthed steed save you. At its strongest - there are none that can remain upright against Malor’s slick - only the studded have a chance.

It is here that I noticed around the edge of the musty pages, text scrawled haphazardly in a hand so small that I could barely make it out.

The first marks read:


I am Malor’s Chosen. I venerate his name!

And again it continued on the next page:


Malor honors me with a sure foot upon his icy visage!

And thrice the pen marked:


His frosty rime is ornate upon my form!

At that point the marginal statements ceased, leaving only the dread conclusion that icy madness had seized the mind of a grim occultist. I realized then, as I do now, that when faced with the malevolent abyss of the ice sheet, one’s grip on sanity slips as much as one’s grip on the ground. I know this all too well in my ventures, and it is only by clinging to my cat, Djuna Barnes, that I retain even a slim thread of sanity under Malor’s reign.

On September 28th, 2015, an ominous prediction:


Once more, Malor will rise and bring the streets of Saint Paul again beneath his icy sway. Some day he would call, when the stars were ready, and the secret cult of trash people would always be waiting to liberate him.


The entry from 2017:


Cry havoc and let's slip on the gloss of Malor.

And the last entry in the book, undated:

Malor. Only Malor. Forever. Cover it all. Cover it all.

What it means I cannot fathom and, to be truthful, my will to continue is weak. To convey any idea of this monstrosity is impossible as primal myth and modern delusion have joined in my mind in the assumption that we humans are only one — and perhaps the least — of the highly evolved and dominant creatures of this city’s long and largely unknown lifespan, that on the surface of the streets lurk things of inconceivable shape, 

For the book itself, I shall give it to my cat, Djuna Barnes, to sit on. She is the only member of my family who stuck by my side after my queer amnesia, and remains organism best informed on the inner facts of my case. Of all living beings, she is least likely to ridicule what I uncovered on that fateful night.

As for Saint Paul, it is always the same. Malor has come and perhaps some bright day, if we are lucky Malor will go away, as a terror gathers and fades. But the evil spirit of darkness and squalor yet broods amongst the hopeless that persist in the old wood houses, and prowling bands of scum on bicycles still glide past my stoop on unknown errands, where windows of dim lights and twisted faces unaccountably appear and disappear.

2020-01-15

Twin City Neon #30

 [Probably Baltimore.]

[Location forgotten.] 

 [Location forgotten.]

 [Probably Baltimore.]

 [Downtown Saint Paul.]

 [Hastings.]

  [Hastings.]
 [Hastings.]

2020-01-14

Twin City Bike Parking #41

 [State fair.]

 [Upper landing, Saint Paul.]

 [SAint PAul.]

 [Longfellow, Minneapolis.]

 [Lake Street, Minneapolis.]

 [Seward, Minneapolis.]

 [University Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[Longfellow, Minneapolis.]

2020-01-10

Reading the Highland Villager #250

[A Villager endures in the West End.]
[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free. See also: Three Reasons Why I Re-Blog the Highland Villager.]


Headline: Citizens group takes dim view [har har] of massive sign for Xcel Center; Appeals BZA decision to allow Wild to hang banner for three years
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A group of people who don't like billboards also don't like a big sign that would plug the NHL hockey team and the iPhone. The team wants to have the sign there for three whole years. [That's a long time!] Guy who heads the downtown BID claims that it will "spur downtown vitality." Saint Paul has sign regulations. [Whole thing seems dumb.]


Headline: Ryan Cos. buys Ford Plant site; Master developer will break ground in spring on new streets, utilities
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The developer has officially purchased the old truck factory. It cost $61M. Article includes history of the plant and development proposal.


Headline: City aims to rein in greenhouse gas emissions; Climate Action Plan focuses on greater energy-efficiency, fewer trips by motor vehicle
Author: Frank Jossi

Short short version: The City Council passed the Climate Action and Resilience Plan unanimously. Article has some info about the plan, as well as a photo of Russ Stark holding a bicycle. [It very much remains to be seen whether the City Council and the Mayor's Office actually does anything meaningful to achieve the goals here. Are we serious about this plan, or is it just feel-good rhetoric? At the very least, if we take this plan seriously, proposals like reducing Ayd Mill Road should be common sense. Instead, CM Tolbert and others are hemming and hawing and calling for a "study" instead of simply moving forward with a proposal aimed at emissions reduction goals. I worry that this plan is mostly symbolic.] 


Headline: McGuire scales back his hopes for Midway Center redevelopment
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Well this was very obviously going to happen the whole time...] The guy who owns the MLS soccer team, the parking lots, and some of the other land that surrounds the stadium had a meeting where he explained why there hasn't yet been any of the promised development. Neighbors are concerned about the lack of progress. The team owner is quoted saying "we don't have the rest of it yet, but we have a quarter-billion-dollar stadium that the whole world is talking about along with new streets, trees, grass and people." [The new streets were paid for with city tax dollars, BTW.] Also quoted saying "The odds of the site looking exactly like the master plan are zero," and said it will likely be a smaller scale.  He is looking for development partners. [This is largely disappointing. I'd like to see a project begin on the key corner at Snelling and University ASAP. That's the key to the whole stadium deal in the first place. Also, they just re-signed Heath? WTH. Heath sucks. This is much worse than the Twins' offseason!]


Headline: Commission grants permit, variances for 7-story building on W.  7th
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A parking lot and body shop will become 153 apartments. It was rezoned and received a variance for floor-area ratio. [Not sure why there are FAR caps, anyway. FAR minimums, I understand...] Two commissioners voted against it, one saying "I don't know who these are being built for." [Well, I would only say that they would be built for people looking for housing in Saint Paul. We have a severe housing shortage in the metro area and in Saint Paul, and need to build much more housing if there is any hope of keeping prices down.] 


Headline: Bike lane projects set to begin this spring on Summit, Marshall avenues.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Some bike lanes on Summit will be re-striped and buffered. Others on Marshall will be added in a two-way manner, between Western and the Cathedral. The city will also add bike lanes at the east end of Lake Como, and on Arlington Avenue by the Gateway Trail. The money come from the city's new dedicated bike fund. [This is a great list of "low-hanging fruit-type" bike projects. If only there were more money; I bet there's a lot more that could be easily done.]


Headline: Neighbors oppose Lexington Pkwy. project due to fears of gentrification
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The owners of a long-vacant lot by the Green Line have a development proposal that might put 236 apartments on the site. [The lot was used for many years as "snow storage," where a giant pile of snow would slowly melt there through the spring and into the summer. Sort of a public works / public art project... maybe meant to invoke climate change?] Neighbors are concerned about affordable housing, rising rents, and property taxes. Quote from academic: "there is a debate over whether new market-rate and luxury apartments will drive up rents in the surrounding neighborhood, [and] it is also debatable whether the building of more apartments relieves price pressures." [A good quote from Goetz/CURA that gets right to the key issue here. The key question: what effect does building, or not building, market-rate housing have on vulnerable people facing rising rents and housing costs? How you answer that question is critical, and shapes the rest of the conversation. Personally, I do not believe that we can stop displacement without building a lot more market-rate housing. There has been zero market-rate housing built along the Green Line in Saint Paul between Downtown and South Saint Anthony Park. That lack of market-rate housing has not kept housing prices down along the Green Line; in fact, they've been rising faster than anywhere else.] Article also mentions that this project proposes a dozen dedicated affordable units. [If Saint Paul had an inclusionary zoning ordinance identical to the one in Minneapolis, there would be 18 affordable units, rather than 12.]


Headline: Commission approves coffee shop drive-thru at Sibley Plaza
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A gas station by in a strip mall parking lot will become a Starbucks drive-thru. [Sigh. I voted for this. IMO, the real problem is the giant strip mall, and the Starbucks is an incidental improvement.] 


Headline: Property tax increases in 2020 vary greatly across St. Paul
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Property taxes and property values are going up, in some places more than others. Government services are expensive.


Headline: District council 'strenuously' objects to dynamic billboard near I-94
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Planning Commission approved a proposal to turn one billboard into a electronic "dynamic" billboard in exchange for taking down many other billboards that are grandfathered in throughout the city. Neighbors are concerned about safety and bright lights. [I am quoted here too. I voted for this because there's no other way to have billboards removed, and the ratio is about 7:1 for the number of billboards removed versus the one that is going to be digital. I do not think the road safety or light concerns are very compelling.]