Cylindrical Container of the Week: Morton's Salt

[Part Two of a series whereby, either through coincidence or nostalgia for breakfast, I steel myself determined to delve into the odd convergence of three foodstuffs and their history-laden packaging. Bear with me, and I think you too will be struck by the uncanny dignity of American canning. This content recycled from my now mothballed website, excitablemedia.com.]

The roots of the Morton Salt company trace back to 1848, when a group of agents for the Onondaga Salt Interest got together in Chicago to usher in a new era of salt distribution. They called themselves Richmond & Company until a daunting figure named Joy Morton, the governor's son, bought a controlling interest and renamed the business after himself. So it went for half a century.

By the end of the Victorian era, the Morton establishment knew they had broken new ground. At the time the biggest saline contaiment problem was "clumping," the fact that whenever the humidity reached a certain threshold great balls of salt would form inside the containment cylinder, and as any food service provider knows, one of the most frustrating things in the world is trying to pour clumps through small preforations. But crafty Morton engineers discovered that if you added magnesium carbonate into the mix, salt would pour even in the most humid climes. They knew their salt innovation would change the world, and the company felt that it was time to claim a distinctive brand identity.

[Saline containment device.]

Thus they decided to launch a marketing campaign worthy of the Quaker Oatmeal Quaker, and the hot summer of 1910 found the Morton salt marketing team sitting in their black suits around a conference table, brainstorming names and slogans for their cutting edge brand.

Young George Harriman suggested the first slogan, "Even in rainy weather, it flows freely," but the committee thought it too cumbersome, despite or perhaps because of its clear statement of the facts.

The group worked through the night, sculpting and molding their syntax. Phrases like "flows freely" and "runs freely" hung in the air like cartoon ballons, but all were rejected due to urination connotations. Finally Young Harriman came through again, pulling out from his think pot his grandmother's salty old adage, "It never rains, but it pours." At last they had a winner, or so they believed . . .

[Little known fact: The Morton Salt girl is the niece of that salty dog, the Gorton's Fisherman.]

The team pitched the slogan to old man Morton the very next day, beading sweat while he mulled it over, watching as he pulled three times at his handlebar mustache before emitting his famous retort: "Too negative. A revolution demands positivity." Heads nodded quickly in agreement, and the brain trust went back to work, coming up with the enduringly upbeat slogan that still appears today: "When it rains, it pours." The ad campaign went national the next month in Good Housekeeping magazine, the slogan placed alongside an illustration of a young girl holding an umbrella, and a salty legend was born.

That much is certain. But the more pertinent question is one of salt's great mysteries. Why is the Morton girl so recklessly pouring salt onto the ground? At the time salt was a precious commodity, and to pour it evenly onto the ground was considered lunacy, a sure sign of madness. Surely the girl's inscrutable expression provides no clue: Whether she is thinking of chocolate, mulling a musical ditty, or reliving a long forgotten memory is irrevelant, but if the weather in the girl's world is anything like the weather in Saint Paul today, I say she's pouring salt onto the sidewalk in order to melt the walkway ice for passers-by to come.

Next time you drizzle salt onto the stoop steps, glance down at your salt containment bag; chances are you'll find the Morton Umbrella Girl standing there, dancing gently to some internal melody. O! Salt spirit, you walk before me, braving the slips and stumbles of the ice-caked cobblestones so that I may walk in peace alongside my kin and all their roommates, our feet planted firmly on the ground. Lead us, Salt Girl, as we walk rainclouded into history.

[Today's girl, full of whimsy.]


Reading the Highland Villager #27 (November 25 - December 7 Edition)

[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. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager so that you don't have to. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]

Total # of articles about sidewalks: 13
Total # of articles about sidewalks written by Jane McClure*: 11

Headline: Agreements reached on purchase of old brewery[, pig takes flight. -Ed]
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article describing "Dominum Development" signing purchase agreement for key parts of the old Schmidt Brewery, which has lay vacant for many a year along Saint Paul's West 7th Street. Article describes future plans, including "263 new housing units", "mised-use urban village", "40,000 square feet of new and renovated commercial space". Also includes lovely artist's rendering of halcyon future. Quote by Councilmember Thune, long-time project booster: "I'm tickled pink". In theory, construction is 2 years away, and depends on public financing from the St Paul Housing Authority.

Headline: UST to consider alternative sites for tennis courts
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: After [the twice-reported] public outcry over Univeristy of Saint Thomas' plans to build tennis courts near / in a grove of older trees near the River Boulevard, the University is considering alternative sites for tis two tennis courts. New site possibilities will be announced on December 14, and will likely not be on campus as campus is full. Quote from UST's VP for University Relations: "We all kind of got slammed." Article includes semi-capitivating and construction-laden history of "town-gown" relations between the school and the [wealthy and influential] Summit Avenue neighborhood, including some detail about the makeup of the West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee (WSNAC), which attempts to bridge the interminable chasm between Tommies and Summit Avenue property owners.

Headline: Senior condos eyed for Bush Children's Center property; residents concerned over future use of Summit Hill site, push for open space
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Developers want to purchase an old building complex on Grotto Avenue very close to the [even more wealthy and influential] Crocus Hill neighborhood and turn it into three-story "condominiums for older [and undoubtedly well-to-do] adults". People who live near there seem to be upset about "housing density", and would rather see open space on the large site. [i.e., they want there to be nothing whatsoever, some grass that would be rarely used, a real live landscape painting with some trees to look at from afar, out the window of a passing car, in glances from a door ajar... -Ed.] There is mention of the city's desire to earn revenue from property taxes. There is also description of the various bureaucratic hurdles to developing the site, including neighborhood boards and the zoning board, but not including the heritage preservation commission.

Headline: Auto repair shop proposed for vacant Grand-Cleveland corner
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The "long-vacant" site at the corner of Cleveland and Grand has seen many development proposals, including a Holiday gas station and more than one mixed-use development, both opposed by neighbors. Most recently neighbors opposed a 6-story mixed-use building because it might have been filled with Saint Thomas students. Apparently neighbors are happy with a car repair place [though I have no idea why. Who wants a car repair place next-door? Does Tommie hatred run so deep? Can we fathom its boundless sublime abyss? -Ed.].

Headline: Curling Club will add five sheets at Biff Adams arena
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Saint Paul Curling Club [which has long been over-capacity] is adding five sheets of ice in the Biff Adams Arena in the North End neighborhood. Article includes lengthy description of what, exactly, curling is.

Headline: St. Paul fine-tunes proposed changes to sidewalk cafe regulations
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Recent attempts by the City Council to actually regulate sidewalk cafes in the city are being postponed because of concern for disability (ADA) requirements. The proposal will require a minimum of 48 inches of clearance. Complaints from the public include: concern over requiring sidewalk cafes to close at 10:00 pm [does anyone in Saint Paul stay awake longer than this? -Ed.], [valid] concern over having to get permits from two separate city bureaucratic offices, and the requirement to display sidewalk cafe plans in restaurant windows. Includes quotes from Dan O'Gara and a representative from the [insidious] Blue Plate Restaurant Company.

Headline: HPC urges historic status for 95-year-old Victoria Theater
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The St Paul Historic Preservation Commissions voted to recommend historic designation for the old, unused theater on University Avenue.

Headline: Additional funding received to construct light-rail line
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: [The latest rivulet in an endless stream of money for the LRT project is:] the Central Corridor received $5.8M from the "Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority and ... the Counties Transit Improvement Board".

Headline: Judge set to rule on lawsuit filed against Central Corridor
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The judge in the Rondo v. LRT lawsuit will rule sometime in the next two months. The suit argues that the LRT does not comply with environmental impact statements (NEPA) because it doesn't account for impacts on low-income populations and people of color.

Headline: Newfound respect for the living fossils shading our boulevards
Author: James Skakoon

Short short version: Op-Ed essay defending the [oft-maligned and] ubiquitous ginkgo trees that line many of Saint Paul's streets. Includes evolutionary and natural history of the tree, description of its reproduction processes [hot!], history of local anti-female Ginkgo backlash.

Headline: Easy wheelin'; popular Nice Ride program gets ready to roll into St. Paul
Author: Frank Jossi

Short short version: Article detailing the expansion [covered elsewhere] of the NiceRide bike sharing program into Saint Paul, along Grand and Univeristy, and in the [seemingly anti-bike -Ed.] Highland Park neighborhood. St. Paul will get 50-70 new stations. Includes quotes from [my favorite, and apparently pessimistic] local bike advocate Andy Singer: "that they got so many people to use it [the bike sharing program] surprised me."

Headline: Mac plan for renovated arts center includes small campus expansion.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Macalester College is redoing its [hideouly ugly] arts building, and will expand a parking lot into some additional property in the nearby neighborhood, including a "vacated east-west alley".

Headline: School district drops plan for parking ban
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: St Paul Public Schools was going to ban parking on weekdays along Colborne Street in the W 7th Neighborhood to allow school buses to line up near the district's headquarters. Neighbors complained -- it "sparked an outcry" -- and now they're not going to do that any more.

* The hardest working woman in local NIMBY journalism.


TCS interviews Viv Corringham, local international sound artist [Part Two]

[International sound artist, Viv Corringham, walking the streets.]



[Many weeks have passed since Part I of the INTERVIEW, and TWIN CITY SIDEWALKS, late at night, beer in hand, finally musters the requisite verve to continue with transcribing.]

Twin City Sidewalks: Tell me about shadow walks, because that was interesting too. What is it?

Viv Corringham: That’s been my main project for about six years, and skyways was a diversion from it, though it certainly has things in common. Shadow walks is… really it comes from my interest in walking, all the things we’ve been talking about, and my interest in a sense of place, all the things that are important to me, and I guess are particularly important now that I’m not quite placed, now that I don’t quite know where I live any more, you know? I don’t quite feel settled in Minneapolis, but I don’t really live in London any more. So all those kind of questions have interested me for a long time, even before I moved here actually. And I wanted to do work that was about other people’s sense of place. Because I realized that when I do walks for recording singing or whatever, I get very attached to the place I walked.

To rewind a little, I started off living in London doing a project called “vocal strolls”. Which was a sort of flaneur thing, it was a little derive out into London, and wherever my feet took me I would go, and I would just sing with whatever I heard. That was all there was to that. And then that wasn’t satisfactory after a while, because I started to realize that I liked walking down certain routes much more than others…

TCS: It’s only natural.

VC: Absolutely, that you like crossing the road here rather than there. And it’s not always logical, sometimes its because that’s what you always do. Why is it that that bit of the road, or that that side of the road feels better than this? And all those questions started to become very interesting to me. And London you know is a place with a lot of history, so I decided to take my favorite walks, or the walks that felt like they had some connection to me, and try and research them a bit, and look into their history and what people have written about them, because in London you know this is never ending. Dickens…

TCS: You get lost.

VC: So I ended up doing two walks which I called “urban songpaths”. One was the site of the River Lee, which still exists, and one was the route of the River Fleet which no longer exists, but which has been heavily written about… Dickens… and it was a kind of an open sewer. And when you get to the Thames, and you lean over you can actually see it dripping because it’s still in a pipe underneath the ground.

TCS: We have underground rivers here in the Twin Cities, too. There’s one in Saint Paul, one in Minneapolis. Basset creek is the one there, it runs kind of in north Minneapolis, the near north side area. They buried it in the 50s, or sometime earlier.

VC: So anyway when I did these, I must have walked it 30 times, and at the end of the project, I realized how attached I became to this place. And I realized that if you walk over and over in one place, you kind of feel like you have a connection with that place. And its almost two way, you almost feel like you affect it as well. It’s kind of a fanciful notion, and if you read my website, you probably saw that James Joyce quote that I absolutely love.

TCS: No, what one is it?

VC: Um, “places remember events”. “Places remember events”. And you know I kind of thought what events do they remember? I hope they don’t just remember big events, the ones that get caught in history. I hope they also remember all those little events, people’s everyday lives, because I’ve always had an interest in the everyday, the small, the details of life.

This is a very long way of telling you that I had this idea that if I had done this walk 30 times, what about other people’s walks that they’ve done 30 or more times? What is their connection with it?

That is really how it began. And I called it “shadow walks” because, … because I felt like I was almost a shadow of the person. I’m shadowing them in the sense that I felt like I was a private detective, sometimes. I felt like I was becoming their shadow.

The first one I ever did I was in London, a friend of mine called John. I repeated them so often. This was the first time I’d really done it. I didn’t really know what I was going to do. So I walked with him.

[A shadow-walks installation from Toronto, Canada.]

The process is this: I ask someone to take me on a special walk. Whatever they mean, whatever they think is a special walk, a walk they’ve done a lot of times and means something to them. So, we do the walk. I record us, just chit-chat. It’s not an interview, its just a conversation. Sometimes they’re quiet. And that’s fine too. And I ask, “Why is this your special walk?” And that usually you know you get their life really. It’s amazing what people reveal.

TCS: It’s such a nice metaphor, the journey. Walking as story telling. Like with a destination and a beginning and a middle. There’s that old trope about how its all about the journey. And it’s a nice artistic medium, I guess.

VC: And I think that if you want to talk to people… You know if I was ever going to be an interviewer for anything, I would do it on a walk…

TCS: I messing this up then! I should be…

Oh, I’m an old pro, you realize.

But the most nervous shy people, once we were walking, it helps, the changing scenery, and also the fact that you’re side by side. You’re not looking at each other. That can be intimidating. I’m not a very shy person, you’ve probably noticed. But that thing of walking along with somebody, they would tell me the most amazing things about their lives. And I would often say you know I’m recording this, tell me if you don’t want me to use anything, and they would say no that’s fine.

And then after that, I would go back, by myself, and I walk exact the same route again and this time I sing, and I improvise, and I improvise with that person’s walk in mind. And its kind of memory, and kind of trying to summarize what the special nature of that walk is, and somehow express that.

TCS: Do you think these walks remember the people? … How do places remember us?

VC: Yeah. I guess they don’t really, but it’s a nice idea. For me, it’s a very nice idea that when you
walk, you walk along… where we’re now walking… you know these people’s lives, they’ve kind of left their traces… the idea of leaving a trace, I suppose. It’s something that as humans we want to do somehow. And maybe just walking along there, along there, maybe we do leave our traces? I don’t know.

TCS: Maybe its more like ripples in a pond or something? It’s a trope-y metaphor things, but the way that we walk or move through a place in a certain way… that will make an impact on the people around us, and change kind of the atmosphere a little bit.

Well, physiologically we do make an impact really. We are leaving bits of ourselves all the time. So maybe it does have some kind of scientific impact, I suppose. But, yes, sort of the idea of moving through the traces of people’s memories and personal history. I guess that is really key to me and that’s really what I try to respect when I do the improvisation.

And when I’m walking I’ll try to remember the things they said, if that comes up, and I’ll just include it and sing it. Otherwise it’s pretty wordless. And then I edit the two together, so the final piece of work, the shadow walk, is an edited version of the original walk with the person and my song walk.

TCS: One of the things it seems like you’re interested in is the everyday and the mundane, as opposed to the view of the Grand Canyon, or the walk along the cliff’s edge. I mean, maybe the places you’re talking about are the most beautiful places you can think of… and that’s important, aesthetics are important. But, it’s more about kind of things that we’re used to, things that we do all the time, ways that moving and walking are incorporated into our routines and our daily rituals and habits and the kinds of people that we are.

I think that’s right. For me the details, the things that make up a life… Even if we go to the Grand Canyon, probably what I’ll remember is some trivial little thing that happened two hours later in a cafĂ©, or a thing someone said. And you know the Grand Canyon is very beautiful, and I’m happy I’ve seen it. But it probably, it’s almost too big. I think our lives are really about very small details. And that’s fine by me. I like that.

Another thing I do, I forgot to mention, in “shadow walks”, is I pick up objects along the route. And I display them. Because normally the shadow walk ends up as an installation in whatever town I’m in. and the visual aspect of that is usually… I put them in little plastic evidence bags, and I leave them with the time.

TCS: What’s the weirdest thing you ever found?

VC: Ummm… I found a squashed frog, I kind of liked that. That wasn’t so weird.

TCS: Isn’t it a little gross to pick that up?

VC: Yeah, I suppose so. I shan’t carry beyond that. An hour later I’m eating my sandwich and I feel a little grossed out. [laughs]

What’s the weirdest thing? I don’t think I’ve found such weird things. I find a lot of very hard to identify things. When I did a residency in Grand Marais, and I went in April just as the snow was melting, and I found a lot of things that had been buried, packed under the ice.

[Emergent springtime sidewalk detritus.]

TCS: That’s the one of the fascinating things about Minnesota, and I guess you don’t have as much snow in the UK, but things are cryogenically frozen in November and they emerge again in March or April. And you never know what you’ll find in the snowbank.

Yeah. I found some [un-understandable word] and often they’d been squashed, just with the weight, so you couldn’t really tell whether it had originally been wide, or if it was a small round thing that had been squashed. So yeah, I found some very strange and hard to identify objects.

I’m not thinking … Oh! I know. One of the most interesting things I liked that I found was an Italian textbook. All the pages on the ground in an alley in London. And they were incredibly grimy. It was an incredibly old book in Italian and it looked like it was a history book in Italian and it was just sort of covering the floor, so it was nice.

I think what I like better than weird objects is objects that seem relevant to the person. And that occasionally happens. There was a man, he must have been about 86, and was in Cork in Ireland. I was in residence there, and he told me about this amazingly long life, and he talked about his wife, and that he’d been married to her for years, and he talked about his kids when they were young, and he talked about what it was like to get old. And when I went out with my plastic bags to find objects, the first things that I found, was this we call them dummies, what are they called, a pacifier…

TCS: Oh sure. I got it.

VC: … and an autumn leaf, and a little card that must of fallen off a bunch of flowers. And it said something like “Thank You, Carol for 40 Happy Years”. It was just really strange actually, you know. There’s nothing spooky about it. I’m the one that’s choosing the objects, and there were probably other things that I didn’t see. But it’s just amazing that the first three objects I saw to pick up just felt amazingly relevant to him.

And there was another man who took me on a walk who was a poet. And he talked about the things we don’t see when we’re walking. And you know, Cork is full of history. And, you know, look at something and just looks like a bollard a traffic bollard in the street, and its actually, what was it, it was a cannon. What do you call them? What do you fire out of cannons?

TCS: Cannon balls?

VC: Cannon ball. Yes. It was one of those, that had been converted. Anyway, he was talking about how we don’t see things, and they’re kind of hidden.

So anyway, when I was trying to retrace his walk, I found a lot of film that was kind of left, and just there on the ground, and I thought, that was really something that’s interesting, there’s something that has things on it and I can’t see them. You can make all these.

TCS: Urban archaeology?

VC: Yeah, they’re just detritus. Its things people have left behind. It’s just traces, just as much as sounds are. We walk along and pick up the traces of things that are just been there.

TCS: Great. Well, this has been a great conversation. There are two things I want to end with, unless there’s something I forgot to ask you.

VC: I don’t think so.

TCS: What’s your favorite spot in the Twin Cities to sit and spend time watching people?

VC: It’s probably going to be one of the coffee shops that I go to regularly. I’m very keen on sitting in the coffee shops and just gazing around there. I don’t particularly want to promote any brand.

TCS: I think we have excellent coffee shops. It’s one of the things… It’s hard to find in places that are more dense than here. You have to have a certain amount of open space to get a good coffee shop.

VC: It’s true, it’s true. They don’t pressure you.

TCS: You can just sit around for hours.

VC: We don’t care.

TCS: I agree with you there. And the other one is, I don’t know if you’ve spent any time in Saint Paul… It’s the Twin Cities… What’s the difference between Minneapolis and Saint Paul?

VC: Well, I find Minneapolis more familiar to me. People kind of go, you know, go to Saint Paul. It’s more classic, you’ll probably feel more at home there, coming from Europe. Actually I didn’t. It felt like very closed in on itself, and its even more skyway and internal-based than here. You know, here there’s more people wandering around on the street, and more street musicians, and I kind of feel more comfortable here, I think.

[A Saint Paul skyway is on top; a Minneapolis one is on the bottom.]

TCS: Actually there’s an interesting difference between the skyways in Minneapolis and the skyways in Saint Paul. I don’t know if you’ve been to the skyways over there, but they’re all city owned. When they were building… The history of these things is kind of bizarre. It’s totally unplanned. They happened by accident, and it built on itself. And here they allowed the building owners to build their own skyway system, and design their own bridges. And so that’s why, they hired architects, and that’s why each one here is different. But Saint Paul, there was a standard city wide skyway that would be installed in every building. But here they’re kind of tied to the buildings that are next to them.

VC: Interesting. So they’re more public. It’s more public space in Saint Paul, then, is it?

TCS: Technically. But, I think, in reality, it doesn’t make much difference. All you end up getting here is more beautiful spots. I agree with you about those being the most beautiful spots, though I’m very fond of the crystal court in the IDS building, I think that’s…

VC: Oh, that’s what that’s called, is it?

TCS: That’s probably one of my favorite spots in the skyways.

VC: Oh, the place with the fountains is it?

TCS: Well, not if you mean this fountain right here. [Points to the huge fountain in the gaviiiiidae-thing-a-majig building]

VC: Actually its not fountain where I’m talking. It’s just sound of water, I think it drips…

TCS: That’s the crystal court.

VC: That’s what it’s called, is it?

TCS: Yeah, its one of the first. … [technical difficulties erased this part of the tape] … one of the fractured connections that existed before…

VC: Yeah, its very lively in that area. I like that actually, on the recording, the bit with the kids was recorded from above, and there were loads and loads of kids just running around, I think there was a Christmas tree, …

TCS: Oh, one more thing, did you ever get really really lost in the skyways?

VC: Yes.

TCS: Does that happen a lot?

VC: Yes, and it still does.

TCS: That totally happens. Because they lead, you, and some buildings are designed for the, some buildings are retrofitted to include skyways,… signage has always been a problem…

VC: So, it’s not just me? I do have a bit of problem with directions anyways. [laughs] But here I get completely lost. Soon as I get away from Nicollet. I’m all right around here, but as soon as I get away form that I have no idea where I’m going most of the time.

TCS: Well, great. This has been a great conversation, Viv Corringham. Thanks for talking to me.

VC: You’re very welcome. It’s been fun. [laughs]

[And, with a telltale flourish, TWIN CITY SIDEWALKS closes his silvery laptop.]

Sidewalk Poem #6

The Wives

If I said, “Little wives,
shut in your dark
houses, an enormous
tiger lily splits
the roof of each house

in the night, and arranges
the moon to itself,
and only withdraws just at dawn,”
you would smile,

and think about bright
flowers, and forget
the money and the shopping,
but if I went on, “I only
see your lilies grow

in my happy sleep,
because you have made no gardens
in your blocks of houses
for flowers that come
in the dark night,”

you would suddenly
cry, or pick up a book,
or walk by yourselves
for a long time
on the white sidewalks.

[Children playing on front porch of a rowhouse. Lyndale Avenue North, Minneapolis, 1961. Img. MNHS.]


Notable Quotes #2: Jean Baudrillard describes Minneapolis circa 1989

[The Commodore Bar, Saint Paul. Img via University Club.]

Tomorrow it will be Minneapolis with its sweet-sounding name, its gossamer string of vowels, half-Greek, half-Cheyenne*, evoking a radiating geometric pattern, at the edge of the ice-sheets, at the horizon of the inhabited world**... Speaking of the silence of the masses and the end of history, and casting an eye over the immensity and radiance of the lake. A biting wind blows over it, away to the east where night is falling. Planes pass overhead, silent as the wind, behind the windowpanes of the hotel, and the first neon signs begin to roll slowly, above the city. What an amazing place America is! All around is Indian summer, its mildness presaging snow. But where are the ten thousand lakes, the utopian dream of a hellenstic city on the edge of the Rockies?*** Minneapolis, Minneapolis! After the patrician elegance and feminine gentleness of the Indian summer in Wisconsin, Minneapolis is merely a rural agglomeration, simply waiting in darkness amid its silos and hunting grounds for the winter and the cold on which it prides itself. But in the depths of this real America, there is the Commodore bar, with the finest art deco in the world, where Fitzgerald, they say, drank every evening.**** I drink there too. Tomorrow I shall be carried directly by plane to the opposite extreme, opposite in terms of light, surface area, racial mix, aesthetics, and power – to the city that is heir to all other cities at once. Heir to Athens, Alexandria, Persepolis: New York.

[-Baudrillard, America. P. 14.]

[The Commodore bar, Saint Paul.]

* Actually Ojibwe. But whatever, its not like Jean was the first white European traveler to mess up the names of Indians.
** Actually Canada.
*** Actually very far from the Rockies. Obviously, geography was not Baudillard's strong suit. Perhaps he needs a map as large as the territory?

**** Actually in Saint Paul. Now tragically un-open, controlled by Saint Paul's old boys.


*** Sidewalk Weekend! *** #47

Sidewalk Rating: Semi-Glum

By the provost's wall came jauntily Blazes Boylan, stepping in tan shoes and socks with skyblue clocks to the refrain of My Girls a Yorkshire Girl. Blazes Boylan presented to the leaders' skyblue frontlets and high action a skyblue tie, a widebrimmed straw hat at a rakish angle and a suit of indigo serge. His hands in his jacket pockets forgot to salute but he offered to the three ladies the bold admiration of his eyes and the red flower between his lips.

As the glossy horses pranced by Merrion square Master Patrick Aloysius Dignam, waiting, saw salutes being given to the gent with the topper and raised also his new black cap with fingers greased by porksteak paper. His collar too sprang up. The viceroy, on his way to inaugurate the Mirus bazaar in aid of funds for Mercer's hospital, drove with his following towards Lower Mount street. He passed a blind stripling opposite Broadbent's. In Lower Mount street a pedestrian in a brown macintosh, eating dry bread, passed swiftly and unscathed across the viceroy's path. At the Royal Canal bridge, from his hoarding, Mr Eugene Stratton, his blub lips agrin, bade all comers welcome to Pembroke township. At Haddintgon road corner two sanded women halted themselves, an umbrella and a bag in which eleven cockles rolled to view with wonder the lord mayor and lady mayoress without his golden chain. On Northumberland and Landsdowne roads his Excellency acknowledged punctually salutes from rare male walkers, the salute of two small schoolboys at the garden gate of the house said to have been admired by the late queen when visiting the Irish capital with her husband, the prince consort, in 1849 and the salute of Almidano Artifoni's sturdy trousers swallowed by a closing door.

-James Joyce, Ulysses (the end of Wandering Rocks).

[An odd piece street furniture framing in Adams Morgan, Washington DC.]

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[Click on Photos for Links.]

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6. We take advantage of summer like the last tipsy hot girl (or guy) at the bar ... at closing time... at a singles meeting... on Valentine's night.


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The Irvine Park Fountain & Old School Traffic Calming

["You shoulda seen the other guy." Img. Boardman.]

Last week, a drunk driver smashed his car into the beautiful fountain in Irvine Park, a lovingly old neighborhood tucked into the armpit of downtown Saint Paul. Irvine Park has a lovely little square, around which you can walk. In the middle sits a lovely, and well-ornamented fountain. Its the kind of place that's quite rare in our car-loving United States.

(As you can see, the fountain didn't get away scott-free. I can only imagine what the car ended up looking like!)

One way of looking at this is to see a needless tragedy. How horrible that this fountain should be there, and that some poor and obviously out of his gourd sap would drive so destructively into its Victorian concrete!

But it occurs to me, also, that there's another way of seeing this crash. Provided the driver is OK (and it seems that he was), this can be seen as a good thing, certainly better than any alternatives involving people or dogs or houses. Perhaps this car-resistant fountain is one of the more beautiful ways to 'calm' streets?

[You'd have to be pretty blitzed to drive into the fountain in the middle of the Irvine Park square.]

This whole event reminded me of a story I heard once on the KunstlerCast, certainly my most 'guilty pleasure' podcast, a story told by the co-host Duncan Crary. Crary had been involved in an effort to erect a statue on an intersection in Schenectdaty, NY, only to be told that such an immovable object would be a menace to drivers.

I wrote him the other day, and here is Duncan's tale :
Back in 1999, as a senior at Union College in Schenectady NY, I started raising money to commission an original statue of William Henry Seward, class of 1820. Seward is famous for engineering the purchase of Alaska, but he also served as Lincoln's Secretary of State and helped write the emancipation proclamation.

I was contacted by a local sculptor named Claude Seward (not a direct descendant, but a distant relative of Wm. H. Seward). We got as far as creating a maquette of the proposed statue, but I was never able to raise the necessary funds for the statue (town, gown, and town & gown politics all played a role in that).

My cousin Cal Crary ended up taking the initiative (5 years later) to purchase a boulder from the Seward Highway in Alaska and had it shipped to Seward Place in Schenectady where it now rests on the corner of Nott Street and Seward Place on the city side of the cast iron fence around the college. I then stepped in to write the text for the bronze plaques on the boulder.

Back to the car accident angle.

When we were still pursuing the statue idea, the then president of Union College (Roger Hull) told me that the perfect spot for the statue would be in a small circle in the middle of an intersection on Seward Place (a city-owned street) in front of one of the entrances to the college.

The college had spent a small fortune purchasing and rehabbing many of the houses along Seward Place on the other side of the street from the college campus. In the process, the city helped to rehab the entire street -- by putting in new granite curbs, installing Belgian block pavers at the intersections, installing "old timey" lamp posts, etc. (the usual street rehab stuff).

That circle for the statue was defined by an attractive granite curb around it.

Technically, the president of the college had no authority to promise me that spot since the city owned it. But in reality, the city probably would have gone along with it if the college really wanted it.

Later on, however, the possibility of using that location (the circle) was revoked by the president after many DOT types complained that it would just end up getting hit by a plow or crashed into by a drunk driver.

Well yeah. It's a frustrating story.

On the one hand, the DOT is obviously right. The statue, like the Irvine Park fountain, will probably end up getting plowed into by a drunk driver.

Of course, they probably didn't consider the fact that that crash could be a good thing! It's far better to have a drunk driver plow into a giant granite boulder-type-person, than to have them plow into a small, actual, fragile and killable-type person. No?

Drivers will always be driving down the street, drunk or texting or otherwise. The only question is: How fast will they be going? How careful will they be?

[The hairpin turn in North Adams, MA is a very effective traffic calming technique.]

This whole debate reminds me of the discussion of road safety in Tom Vanderbilt's wonderful book, Traffic. The crucial paradox: "safer" streets are actually more dangerous. The more you design streets with safety for car drivers in mind (e.g. wide lanes, few curves, plenty of room on the shoulders), the more you encourage people to speed faster and faster. And the more the entire world begins to look like a freeway on-ramp.

On the other hand, seemingly 'dangerous' roads are often paradoxically safer, for both pedestrians and drivers. This works out because these kinds of streets (think of the narrow, barely two-way streets in South Minneapolis) simply don't allow cars to travel unsafely for the very simple, unavoidable fact that it would be suicidal.

And that's one reason why we need more fountains and statues in the middle of interesting intersections. We need more squares and roundabouts and traffic circles and speed bumps and large and unsmashable trees along the road. The only consequence of this kind of traffic calming is that every so often, every once in a while, you get some moron who drives straight into the fountain or statue or whathaveyou...

The square in Irvine Park is a gorgeous spot. I'd like to see more fountains and squares and circles and statues, even if it means that jerks drive into them from time to time.

More Traditional Methods of Traffic Calming. Via. Sutpen:

["The telephone pole". Roslyn, NY (1956)]

["The tree". Time and place unknown.]

["The snowy house". Dayton, OH (1960)]

["The locomotive". Cincinnati, Ohio (1954)]

["The sewer". Hollywood, CA (1955)]


Cylindrical Container of the Week: Quaker Oatmeal

[Part One of a series whereby, either through coincidence or nostalgia for breakfast, I steel myself determined to delve into the odd convergence of three foodstuffs and their history-laden packaging. Bear with me, and I think you too will be struck by the uncanny dignity of American canning. This content recycled from my now mothballed website, excitablemedia.com.]

Ever since I bought a newfangled alarm clock I've been a man of strict routine. Case in point, my daily breakfast never varies: a bowl of oatmeal, piping hot, two cups of coffee, and a whole heap of salt to kick it down. The salt goes on the oatmeal, by the way, not in the coffee, though a few years back I happened to pour salt in my coffee and it's not undrinkable. Regardless, just yesterday I was again seated at the breakfast table listening to the neighbor's dog, a big black beast, lame, blind and deaf, that materializes in my kitchen window each morning, limping through the backyard and greeting the sun with barks filled with pain, a tragic scene to say the least, and I realized that all my breakfast food comes in cylindrical containers. Here's the way it happened: I had sleepily put the Quaker Oatmeal lid onto the Chock Full o' Nuts can, and I only realized much later that it didn't matter because the wrong lid fit like a glove. The cans are well nigh identical, at least in circumference, and when you include vital condiments, i.e. Morton Salt w/EZ-pour spout, you've got yourself a trifecta of geometric containment.

[The First Quaker Oatmeal Quaker.]

Not even yours truly is old enough to remember the dawn of the Quaker Oatmeal Quaker. Like most American kiddies I was spoon fed this guy's mug from birth, so much so that the Quaker's smile dangling from the brim of his William Penn hat is my first tangible memory.

I don't know about you but I wasn't the least surprised to find there's nothing Quaker about Quaker Oatmeal, and he's an early example of shameless religious exploitation, a la Mel Gibson's Christ movie, which by the way I'll probably see more than once. But as it turns out, the Oatmeal people and the Quakers, a.k.a. the Society of Friends, have developed a neo-Darwinian symbiotic relationship, each milking the other's public image like an old-fashioned celebrity marriage. We need only ask: Would the Quakers be such a dominant political and religious force today if it weren't for the ubiquitous Oatmeal? On the other hand, for whatever reason, similar religious marketing schemes haven't panned out. Neither Jew Flakes nor The Box of Latter Day Flapjacks ever really caught on with the general public, though fossilized remains can still be found in small museums and smaller general stores. If pressed, even in spite of the dismal failure of Pope-brand Frozen Tacos, I'd say it was the Quaker's distinctive hat.

[Quaker Oatmeal Quaker III and Quaker Oatmeal Quaker Jr.]

Now some history: Quaker Oats was born in Chicago, Illinois, the king of company towns, and was the end product of an industrial revolution in grain production that swept the 19th century agrarian breadbasket from Omaha to Indianapolis. Having consolidated mass-production, the next step was the creation of mass-consumption and mass-distribution networks, which meant only one thing to the Chicago grain barons: advertising. Thus 1877 found a group of grain companies placing the image of The Quaker on their package, holding a scroll marked with the word "PURE," and a model of industrial progress was born.

Success came quickly for the Quaker Oatmeal Quaker, the first nationally marketed artificial foodstuff mascot in history, and he spawned countless emulators, from Aunt Jemimah to the Domino's Noid to Paul Newman. Strangely enough, at first the Quaker Oatmeal box was square, until changes in ergonomic theory made it possible to switch to cylindrical oatmeal containment in 1915. In 1947 the Quaker was redrawn, brought into the 20th century, originally in pure black and white until color was added in 1957. And for some reason, probably having to do with the sweep of cultural change, the Quaker was updated again in 1972. Don't be shocked, but Quaker Oatmeal Quaker the Third is only thirty-two years old. (He looks older . . .)

[I don't know why Quaker Oatmeal Quaker is pouring oatmeal on Congress. Do you?]

I have the personal privilege to know a Quaker or two, but I've yet to ask them if they eat Quaker Oatmeal. You see, while they're remarkable listeners, Quakers are a fairly sensitive lot and I'm reluctant to gauge too closely their mealy temperament.

But my oatmeal advice is this: Don't fall for the instant oatmeal trap. Standing before the supermarket grain shelf and looking down at the two smiling Quaker cylinders, one marked "Instant! One Minute" and the other "Original. Five Minute," go for the latter and you'll thank yourself later. If you took out your TI-85 and plotted Morning Time Available vs. Taste Differential, I think you'd find, as I did, that the Original Oatmeal is well worth the wait. On the other hand, don't make it with milk. The box-back directions do offer you the choice, but I've found it very difficult to make milk-based oats w/out turning the kitchen into a reenactment of what Mrs. O'Leary's cow must have felt like after the Great Chicago fire had been raging for a while. What I mean is, the milk heats up, half-solidifies, and bubbles over the pot onto the stove. Take it from me, it turns the oatmeal pot into an awful mess. If I had a Quaker convert for each time I've burned my breakfast Oatmeal making it with milk, I'd have a quorum.

[Do Japanese 'get' Quaker Oatmeal Quaker?]

The upside to oatmeal is that it's healthy, but the downside is that Oatmeal tastes pretty darn bad, which explains the golden rule of oatmeal: The Condiment Imperative, something they know well at Denny's, where if you order a bowl they make sure to bring you three things: a pitcher of milk, and bowls of brown sugar and raisins. But me, I'm a bit old fashioned, with antique tastes, and invariably I have to beckon back my waitress and demand salt. I eat my oatmeal with salt so that you don't have to.


Signs of the Times #26

Free Food
Comida Gratis

[Sidewalk. Lake St., Minneapolis.]

Please Don't Feed
The Pigeons

... or
They Will Land on Your Head.

[Fence. Adams Morgan, Washington DC.]

Parking meters will let
you park here for 4
hours ALL THE TIME!!!
Now Available at all
Meters on This Block.

[Parking station. Adams Morgan, Washington DC.]

Snack to Forget
[With Dinosaur]

[Sidewalk. Adams Morgan, Washington DC.]

We will be - Have
Moving - ED

Open Now
To to 3012 Lyndale Ave S

[Shop door. Lyndale Avenue, Minneapolis.]

Hey You!
Metal Only!
No Trash No Glass

[Trash bin. Warehouse District, Minneapolis.]

Dam Zamlen St Thomas Student 18
Abducted + Murdered 4-5-09 Ramsey Ct: "Accidental
Satanist Death Squads Covered Up (Federal) State + Local
In USA + World MT24L7-9: "There will be famine
Earthquakes in Many Places" These are the Early Stages
JN 4:04: "God is + Spirit Those who worship Him Must Worship in
Spirit + Truth." Believe in Jesus Christ

[Man. University of Minnesota East Bank Campus, Minneapolis.]


[Sign. University of Minnesota Campus, Minneapolis.
Thanks Jake!]

Everyday People
in Dinkytown
Is Now Closed
Please Visit
Our Uptown
And St. Paul

[Window. Dinkytown, Minneapolis.]