Northeast Flags Now Available at New Low Price!

[They look like this.]
Good news! I have some new Northeast Flags in stock.

If you missed the first round of Northeast flags, or my tell-all history of the provenance of this vexilologically-sound flappable banner, do check it out.

Here's an excerpt:
The parking lot park was finally built in 1973, ten years after the bank building. It was the culmination of Rasmussen’s life-long dream of combining parking for cars with spaces for young people to play, drunk people to sleep, and arm-wrestling people to arm-wrestle. 
Amazingly enough, the winning flag design was crafted by a ten-year-old Northeast kid named Tony Di Giovanni. 
Rasmussen celebrated the unveiling of the flag with a polka festival in the parking lot park, and throughout 1975 he went around gifting flags to various civic institutions like the Police Department and the Edison High marching band. 
Sadly, the Northeast Flag did not catch on, and today you rarely see it flying. One flies over the parking lot park, of course, and I have heard that there’s one on display at 56 Brewing on the northern edge of the neighborhood.

Anyway, these are lovely wall-mount-style flags with the blue-and-white stripes and the rad NE logo. Get yours today for a new low price of $14!

Buy one for yourself and/or your favorite Northeast Minneapolis resident or fan.

In closing, via Hymie's, here's the "Sven Ivan O'Myron Wisnewski Polka" by Arnie Fogel and the Cookhouse Players, the official song of the Northeast flag:

[Northeast flag = the symbol of premarital cohabitation.]


Twin City Street Musicians #21

 [Grand Avenue, Saint Paul.]

 [Skyway, Minneapolis.]

 [Victoria, BC.]

 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 [Vancouver? Or maybe Seattle.]

 [West 7th Street, Saint Paul.]

 [Lowertown, Saint Paul.]

[Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis.]


A Hopeful Sign from the Memorial Ride

Yesterday, there was a huge turnout for the memorial ride for Alan Grahn, killed a week ago on Summit Avenue by a turning school bus. At around 7 pm, hundreds of cyclists gathered in the Grand Avenue parking lot before one of the leaders made an announcement. Quickly, everyone saddled up and headed out in silence. 

We went east on Grand, turned north on Dale, and then took over half of Summit Avenue to reach the ghost bike erected at the Snelling intersection. A dozen volunteer marshals rode in advance of the large group at the intersections to stop the cars and "hold" the intersections while the bikes went by.

With so many people pedaling at a slow pace, it took a while for the memorial procession to pass. Of course the people driving cars were getting agitated, but that's constant state of affairs in Saint Paul. For the most part, though, people waiting the slowing traffic or stopped on the sidewalks seemed to be in silent awe at the mass passing of the bicycles. 

“What is going on” someone occasional asked, and one of the riders would say quietly “it's a memorial ride.” We'd been given instructions to bike in silence until we reached Snelling Avenue, where Alan was killed.

I was happy to see Mayor Carter in attendance, wearing a grey tee-shirt and riding a mountain bike as part of the group. His mother, County Commissioner Toni Carter, was there as well, along with former City Council President Russ Stark, now a key member of Carter’s mayoral team. We chatted briefly, and Mayor Carter was doing his best to talk with folks before we left.

After a five or ten minutes of the silent procession, the feeling of sadness and loss kept growing in my heart. If you'll pardon the pun, the ride was a moving experience. So many people riding in silence forced one’s thoughts to dwell on the randomness and everyday danger that people riding bicycles feel almost constantly in the city. The thought, “it could have been me,” mulls in your mind, even as the horns honk and cars continue to  rev their engines, even as you dodge the river of potholes traveling down the narrow gritty street. 

I have a friend who knew Alan well, and she'd brought her two kids on the the ride. Earlier we’d given each other big hugs, and there were plenty of people in the group that knew Alan personally and were shaken by his untimely death.

It wasn’t until Hamline Avenue, about two miles into the procession, that I began to notice drivers in the waiting cars really lose patience. As the bikes flowed by in silence, dozens and dozens of people passing every second, a few folks idling in their SUVs began honking at each other on both sides of the intersection.

As I passed, a guy in a white Nissan began leaning on his horn. At that point, the scruffy-looking bike marshall, holding the traffic back as the procession went past, just raised his middle finger in the air, the age-old bicycle salute. What else could you do? It was getting hostile, impatient people unable or unwilling to wait a few minutes for the hundreds of people to pass.

That's when I saw Mayor Carter coming at me fast. Hearing the horns, he turned around and was booking toward the intersection, biking against the grain opposite to the flow of the parade. Russ Stark was trying to keep up, running back up. I later heard that Carter personally went to the angry drivers to try and explain the situation. I didn’t see it happen, but fifteen minutes later, the ride had a police escort on the front and back ends. 

I hope Carter’s willingness to jump into the fray is a sign of things to come. That instinct, and the the desire to personally lead on a tough issue, is what we need to make streets like Summit Avenue safe for everyone. That's the kind of leadership that Saint  Paul -- and indeed all American cities -- must have if we are to heal and fix our too-deadly streets.


Sidewalk Poetry #57: 9th & Hennepin

Well, it's Ninth and Hennepin
All the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes
And the moon's teeth marks are on the sky
Like a tarp thrown all over this
And the broken umbrellas like dead birds
And the steam comes out of the grill like the whole goddamn town's ready to blow
And the bricks are all scarred with jailhouse tattoos
And everyone is behaving like dogs
And the horses are coming down Violin Road and Dutch is dead on his feet
And all the rooms they smell like diesel
And you take on the dreams of the ones who have slept here
And I'm lost in the window, and I hide in the stairway
And I hang in the curtain, and I sleep in your hat
And no one brings anything small into a bar around here
They all started out with bad directions
And the girl behind the counter has a tattooed tear
One for every year he's away, she said
Such a crumbling beauty
Ah, there's nothing wrong with her that a hundred dollars won't fix
She has that razor sadness that only gets worse
With the clang and the thunder of the Southern Pacific going by
And the clock ticks out like a dripping faucet
Till you're full of rag water and bitters and blue ruin
And you spill out over the side to anyone who will listen
And I've seen it all
I've seen it all through the yellow windows of the evening train

[Tom Waits, Rain Dogs.]


Cities on the Move: An Incomplete Timeline #2

It's been some years since we last checked in to see which cities are "on the move", and I'm willing to bet that many more cities have gotten "on the move" since 2013, joining the ranks of cities like Detroit, Michigan and Sheffield, England.

So let's "go to the tape" and see which cities are "on the move"...

2011 - Yellowknife, Northwest Territories is on the move.

As they say in Yellowknife, "we're a city that's always on the move."

2013 - Syracuse, New York is on the move.

Mayor Miner tells it like it is: "we're a 21st century city on the move."

2016 - Birmingham, Alabama is on the move.

As they say in Birmingham, "Look around and you'll see Birmingham is not standing still. The city is on the move."

2017 - Tampa, Florida is on the move.

As they say in Tampa, "Here in Tampa, we keep the good times going. We work hard, we play hard, and we never stop striving to be the best. We're a city on the move!"

Read much more about it in this promotional document.

2018 - Charlotte, North Carolina is on the move.

As they say in Charlotte, "Charlotte has experienced a population explosion, and we’ve grown right along with the community."

[Stay tuned for more cities on the move in the upcoming future!]


Saint Paul and Northeast Minneapolis Deluxe Flag Patches Now Available

I am excited to share with you two fine new flag regional civic flag products. That's right, full-color deluxe looking patches that you can affix to just about anything!

I have Northeast Flag and Saint Paul flag patches for sale on the store. I just got them in, and they look really nice! They're shiny and well made and the colors really "pop."

Get yours today. Put it on your backpack or trucker cap or whatever!

Get yours now before I sell out and have to dink around for two months getting some new ones...

Thanks to The Minnesotan vintage brand store in White Bear Lake for helping get these made.


Public Stairs of Saint Paul Walking Tour #1 on Sunday 5/20

[East Side stairs.]
Join me for another tour. This is a new idea that's been buzzing around my head for a decade, ever since I happened across a "staircase" connecting two sidewalks over on the East Side. It was green and great, and the wooden "public" "sidewalk" staircase filled my heart with a curiosity for more public flights.

A few years later I found myself in Portland, Oregon, and picked up a copy of this book: The Portland Stairs Book. Public stairs are ubiquitous in hilly Portland, especially in the Northwest and Southwest parts of the city, and it inspired me to search for similar stairs in Saint Paul.

Years after that, I moved to the West Side and started seeing staircases, lost and found. Saint Paul is no Portland, and the majority of the old staircases that used to run up and down the bluffs have been lost to so-called progress, freeways, railroads, and the like. But there are still a handful of interesting staircases to climb and descend.

So join me!

This is the first staircase walking tour. I will be pointing out some historical highlights along the way, things like the impact and odd story of the 35 E freeway, lost buildings of the old bluff, the strange "sneaky trail", the history of Crocus Hill, murder, and more. We'll be going up or down four (4) sets of public staircases of the following lengths:

  • 156 steps
  • 79 steps
  • 56 steps
  • and 50 steps

The walk is over four (4) miles long and is the pace will be somewhere between steady and vigorous. This is not an ADA accessible tour. Please wear your walking shoes and come prepared to set out!

[Facebook invite is here.]

[One set of stairs below the Hill house.] 

What: Guided walking tour of four (4) public staircases in Saint Paul, as well of plenty of historic homes
When: Sunday 5/20 at 2:30pm (tour will last about two hours, maybe a bit more)
Where: Meet at the corner of Mulberry Street and Old Kellogg, by the Selby Streetcar Tunnel
Why: Because they're still there
Who: Anyone willing to walk a bit. Free of charge.

[Possible highlights / lowlights follow...]

[A set of public stairs along Summit Hill.]

 [Non-public limestone staircase.]

[Where the sidewalk ends?]

 [What is in these woods anyway?]

[A staircase view.]


Reading the Highland Villager #208

[A Villager enjoying a sidewalk café.]
[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 getting ready to roll out its new organized system of trash collection; Residents will be asked in May to select service level
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Instead of having lots of trucks roll down your street or alley multiple days per week picking up one or two trash cans, one truck is going to roll down your street or alley once a week picking up all the trash cans. Illegal dumping is also mentioned. The project is going to cost $4M up front. Some people will pay more, others will pay less. Article includes rates. People can choose what size trash can to have. Garbage people were upset. Neighbors are concerned about chaos.

Headline: Accessory dwelling gaining support -- in theory anyway
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Many people think it should be OK to allow small apartments in and around single-family homes in more places, but nobody is building them regardless. There was a public hearing. [Deregulating some rules like the one that requires staircases to be enclosed will allow people to actually build these. Currently they are too expensive to make sense anywhere but in the city's most wealthy areas.]

Headline: Permit for 6-story apartment bldg. at St. Clair and Snelling gets hearing; Latest proposal has more brick and fewer balconies near homes
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An empty / abandoned strip mall and parking lot area on Snelling Avenue might become a mixed-use building with retail and apartments. Neighbors are concerned about size, traffic, and parking. Others seem to like it.

Headline: HDC supports permit, rezoning, variance for old Riverside site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The place where a school used to be by Lexington and West 7th might become senior housing. It also offers a chance to make the intersection safer for people.

Headline: City proposes new rules governing historic districts, sites; Plan would give more authority to Heritage Preservation Commission and raise fees for reviews, appeals
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There are historic districts in the city, and a Commission which oversees them. [I attended one of these meetings, but left after an hour-long discussion of proper shingles for a garage roof.] Article lists the city's historic districts. The city is looking at shifting the process for these kinds of decisions. [Seems OK to me.] Article mentions "minimum maintenance standards." [That seems scary to me. Sigh.] 

Headline: Ward 4 DFL endorses Nelson in race for City Council seat; Erstad remains in race in hopes of robust campaign 
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a party convention for the Ward 4 City Council seat and Mitra Jalali Nelson won easily. Article has brief descriptions of the meeting and the candidates. Shirley Erstad [commenter on this very blog!] is remaining in the race.

Headline: Wabash Ave. apartments plan dropped
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A developer had planned on using historic preservation credits to building housing in an old slaughterhouse by a brewery but an industrial company complained and now they are not going to. [That is too bad. The Planning Commission supported the project.]

Headline: Met council plans upgrade of aging sewer near Minnehaha
Author: Bill Wagner

Short short version: Over in Minneapolis, and old sewer will be replaced.

Headline: Marshall rezoning plan would put density where 'it makes most sense'
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is looking at rezoning much of the land along Marshall Avenue between the Mississippi and Hamline. Neighbors are concerned.  The plan would like to see density along the main intersections. Article includes some rezoning suggestions. Some people living in the area would like to see a "balance." Others would like to see the golf course rezoned. [Woah! Now that's an idea...]

Headline: April snowfalls bring May flooding
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The river is high.

Headline: City proposes changes to permit parking program
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: in some neighborhoods, only residents can park on the street. After decades of not doing anything, the city is looking at how that policy is working. The will consolidate some of the zone, and limit the number of permits each home can have while making them slightly more expensive. Quote from member of the Transportation Committee [not me]: "Saint Paul doesn't like change." Saint Paul police do not really enforce any of these rules anyway because they are impossible to enforce, pretty much.

Headline: Debate continues on design of new Dale St. bridge over I-94
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The County and MN-DOT are building a new bridge over the freeway at Dale Street. the goals were loft, including making the sidewalks safer. the neighborhood group is upset. The project has been delayed for a year. Neighbors are concerned about speeding cars, too-narrow sidewalks, and wider corners. Ramsey County public works is waffling on the design details. [I am going to guess that they would like more turn lanes, no bike lanes, and narrower sidewalks.]

Headline: Council supports parking bans for Lexington bikeway plan
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a meeting and the City will put bike lanes on Lexington Parkway, taking away some on-street parking [that was rarely used].Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking. CM Tolbert is quoted; "the important point is that this will make Lexington a safer road." Local up-and-coming young person is quoted:" I don't like it when bike lanes just end." [Please note: this is the first Highland Villager that I can remember that did NOT include a "local news roundup" section with 5 or 6 short articles of local streets and sidewalks news. What's up with that?]


Twin City Lamp Posts #14

 [Seattle, WA.]

 [Seattle, WA.]

 [Seattle, WA.]

 [Seattle, WA.]

 [Seattle, WA.]


 [West Side, Saint Paul.]

[West Side, Saint Paul.]


Signs of the Times #139

I NEED $41.00

[Skyway, Minneapolis.]

 Welcome to my
shop to taste Delicious
shanghai cuisine.
The best food in china
is here.
more have American dish

[White board. Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis.]


[Cathedral Hill, Saint Paul.]


[Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]

 Coming Soon!
Old School
Steeple People
Stay Connected
love peace thrift

[Window. Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]

 So Long, and Thanks
For All The Fish

[Door. Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]


[Wall. Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]


[Location forgotten.]

Twin City Bike Parking #32

 [Victoria, BC.]

 [Victoria, BC.]

 [Victoria, BC.]

 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 [Grand Avenue, Saint Paul.]

 [Seattle, WA.]

 [Seattle, WA.]

[West Side, Saint Paul.]


Another Dive in Limbo as Malina's Sports Bar Goes Up For Sale

The unique Dale Street dive, Malina's Sports Bar, was on the City Council agenda last week, which is something that fans of dive bars never want to see. Malina's is one of the last remaining bars on Dale Street, which used to have a bunch of dives but has become more economically marginalized ever since half of Dale Street was bulldozed and the street expanded back in the 1960s.

Back when I living in Saint Paul's North End, Malina's was the most thriving place to go to hang out. The place was unusual, for sure. It was either very closed or very open, and you could tell which was which by just scoping out the parking lot. If there were a dozen cars there, then they were open. My roommate and I used to go there whenever we were bored to drink Beer Lao and watch the best karaoke in town. This was back in the day when a man named Vone owned the place, a guy who was already friendly towards us and often insisted on me singing Sinatra songs on the karaoke stage.

(I usually obliged.)

Here's an expert from my blog when Vone was shot, trying to close up the bar one night:
The other strange thing was that Malina's was either packed or empty. There was very little in between. About half the time you'd walk in to find yourself alone with either Vone or the woman I presume was his wife. She never really spoke to us, and did all the cooking. On the other hand, Vone was gregarious. He was the bartender/owner, and he seemed to like when we'd visit. He'd chat with us, always knew how long it'd been since we'd been there last. We'd talk in vague platitudes about the bar, the neighborhood. He told us he had been a social worker, but not a lot of other details. It didn't matter. 
The bar was almost all young Hmong people from the neighborhood. I have one or two Hmong friends, and when I'd tell them that I enjoyed going to Malina's, they'd roll their eyes. "That's where guys go to cheat on their wives," one told me. Those dynamics were lost on me. All I noticed was the karaoke. I've been to a lot of karaoke bars over the years, but none of them could hold a candle to Malina's. The standards were high; there was a set of about two dozen 80s pop ballads, and you'd often see a shy looking girl wearing a sweatshirt take the stage and absolutely crush some Céline. "I Will Always Love You" was popular, and something about crying eyes, anything with gradually escalating key changes.  Usually Vone would try to get me to sing too, for some reason, and after a few beers I'd oblige with a crap rendition of some Sinatra. Nobody clapped for me, but Vone seemed to enjoy it. 
I'd often bring people to Malina's who were visiting from out of town, you know, like from Minneapolis. Vone usually made us feel comfortable there. The food was good, too. Malina's served a few different kinds of larb (a meat salad), or you could get a plate of papaya salad for a few bucks. Maybe its my imagination, but Vone seemed to delight in making it as spicy as possible. I'd sweat for fifteen minutes after eating it. There were other things on the menu too that were beyond my degree of difficulty limit.  
Over the years, Vone spent a lot of time trying to fix the place up. He always seemed to be in a struggle with the neighborhood. The other Hmong bar down the street, Moonlight Magic on Western and Thomas,  was a lot more of a dive. A few years prior, it had had a gunshot incident and been closed down by the city. That was the neighborhood. Lots of places had that problem, bars on Rice Street, anywhere with lots of young people.  
When my roommate moved away, I started going there a bit less often. Each time I'd return, Vone seemed to have done some remodeling. He painted the walls. He installed booths all around the old pool-hall room. The last time I was at Malina's was about a year ago. There was a live band, a buffet, and everybody was dancing. I'd brought a date, and we joined them. 

On the recent Frogtown dive bar tour last summer, I brought the group back into Malina's. This was years after Vone's tragic death at the hands of a disgruntled customer, but the place seemed like it was back up and running. The owner was welcoming and gracious to our tour, and everyone seemed to enjoy the eclectic space that is Malina's.

It sounds like the bar owners are trying to sell the place and keep it open, and that CM Thao is supportive of helping with the process. I hope that the owner can transfer the bar and liquor license to someone who can keep it running, and I hope the city can help make that happen. The city would be much better off with a welcoming and thriving bar instead of another vacant building on Dale Street.

[Follows are some pics of Malina's from the 2017 Frogrtown Dive Bar tour.]

[Malina's parking lot.]

[A nice Malina's sign.]

[Newspaper article on Malina's from the Hmong Times.]


[Not sure this is actually a real ordinance thing...]

[The telephone pole outside Malina's is also one of those kitchen-style growth charts.]

[The stage.]

[Amazing Malina's poem.]

[The Betty Boop thing is a weird remnant from the previous bar's incarnations...]