24.8.16

Reading the Highland Villager #162

[A Villager loiters.]
[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: Council is poised to approve soccer stadium plan
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article begins thus... "Despite concerns about traffic and parking congestion..." [It seems to me, does it not, that 75% of Highland Villager articles start with this premise? It should be in the Villager Style Manual that this phrase is implied and thus does not need to be printed every time. Perhaps the acronym: D-CATAP could be useful here and save on newsprint costs?] The City Council is likely to approve plans for the new soccer stadium. [And they did.] The plans had been idealistic about predicting the number of people who would drive and park near the corner. Article reports on a meeting where the strip mall owners spoke about the length of time required and need for flexibility [read: less density] when it comes to redeveloping the area around the stadium that is currently a strip mall, fast food, and parking. Redevelopment might take a decade. Article also quotes Bill McGuire [dubiously ethical wealthy team owner] about different traffic studies. McGuire replied with the quote that: "people can throw all kinds of figures around." [Indeed. If anyone would know...] Key sentence: "Local highways, streets, and transit lines will be able to handle gameday traffic." [Prediction: there will be a lot of cars and people walking and taking the train.] Neighbors are concerned about "parking, traffic and noise." [Dogged crank] Tom Goldstein is quoted demanding more evidence about redevelopment. Article also quotes CMs Prince, Thao, and Stark.


Headline: City loan help save old West End fire station
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: And old and abandoned fire station dating to the 1870s that was slated to be torn down for a new hotel project is going to be saved and restored instead thanks to a $500K forgivable loan from the city. [That's a hefty price!] Article includes some history of the building. It might get sold after it is renovated.


Headline: Mayor unveils city budget with 4% increase in tax levy
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Property taxes will go up. New money will go to funding street trees, a pedestrian coordinator position, and recycling. Saint Paul will be America's most "workable" city instead of its most "livable" city. [I'd like it to be America's most walkable city.] There was a speech.


Headline: Unspent STAR funds sought to transform Central' Handful of other local projects approved for city grants, loans
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Central High School's campus will get some money to make its public spaces more attractive. [School looks like a prison.] Things like "a paved walkway" and "water filtration" and "bike racks." Also funded: a theater marquee, old buildings, a soundproof room, affordable housing, and a balustrade.


Headline: BZA OKs variances for new Habitat home on West End
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A new affordable house will get to be closer to the property line.


Headline: St. Paul provides more funds for improving Dickerman Park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A historic [very strange, linear, and almost useless IMO] park along University Avenue will get $50K for design improvements.


Headline: Union Park favors proposal to extend liquor store hours
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A neighborhood group thinks its OK if people can buy beer until 10pm. CM Tolbert is pushing for the change.


Headline: BZA supports allowing second home on Saratoga Street lot
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A guy who owns a house can build a second house on his large irregular lot. [This makes sense.]


Headline: St. Paul grants liquor license for restaurant at City House
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old grain elevator by the river will now be allowed to serve booze. [See my story on this and how it is wonderful.]


Headline: Neighbors appeal approval of house on narrow West End lot
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) said it's OK if a couple builds a house on a narrow vacant lot, but neighbors are concerned about wet basements and "monolithic walls" and want the City Council to appeal the appeal. "The house would not have a basement." [Where will the snakes go?]


Headline: Brake Bread rolls out home delivery fresh from new West 7th St. bakery
Author: Frank Jossi

Short short version: You can have a guy on a bike bring bread right to your house! [Even though there are no bike lanes on West 7th or really anywhere in this area except for Jefferson. I wish I was in the delivery area but asking someone to schlep bread up the High Bridge is a bit much.] All the bread types have bike-themed names. [It's almost like things are changing in the West End, what with these "kids today" even though they're in their 40s.] There is a "toast bar." [I need to get there!]


Headline: WSNAC objects to short notice of UST plan to raze Grand buildings
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: St. Thomas wants to tear down older buildings that it owns along Grand Avenue and the neighborhood committee is upset about it. [I wish the school would just rehab these buildings and use them for offices. That would be pretty classy.] Article includes a lot of info about town/gown relationships and history. Quote from UST guy: "We thought people would be thrilled with the announcement." [Did you? Why? Because people in Saint Paul love tearing things down?] They are being torn down any day now.There might or might not be more parking added to the campus, and/or housing here instead. [I should hope so.]




Note: This Highland Villager recap composed while listening to Verdi's opera, La forza del destino, which is apparently cursed.



23.8.16

The Slow Joy of Bicycle Touring

Speed was of the essence, the joy of sitting in the car and hurtling himself forward through space. That became a good beyond all others, a hunger to be fed at any price. Nothing around him lasted for more than a moment, and as one moment followed another, it was as through he alone continued to exist. He was a fixed point in a whirl of changes, a body poised in utter stillness as the world rushed through him and disappeared. The car became a sanctum of invulnerability, a refuge in which nothing could hurt him anymore. As long as he was driving, he carried no burdens, was unencumbered by even the slightest particle of his former life.

[Paul Auster, The Music of Chance.]

[A spring respite.]
There is a particular feeling after bicycle touring that sinks down into your legs. It grounds you, connecting  your feet to the earth, the floors of your rooms, the dirt in your yard, the concrete and asphalt streets all offer purchase of a different kind. The topography is alive with the possibility of a distant place, not just the knowledge the remnants of a lived encounter between your body and the world around you.

"I traveled this far on my own, carried myself into and across a landscape," it says mutely.

You don't think this thought so much as feel it, the distance fills your limbs, the lingering horizons tracing an unbroken curve between here and there, an aura of peace equal parts physical and mental that changes the feeling of chairs or paper. Everything tastes bigger somehow.

The richness of traveling by bicycle is rooted in vulnerability, the sheer act of carrying weight, the intensity of each hill, or the infinite randomness of the weather. This recent trip, to and from a small farm outside Stillwater, Minnesota, began in a deluge, hours of rain that seemed to swirl on the radar and stop overhead, dropping rain all morning long and making sure my socks would we wet for hours. Back and forth the rain drops toyed with gravity. Bicycling demands and rewards the patience and thick skin, but then just as much the sky settles down and by nightfall first a single star appears and then a dozen and then a hundred. And the next day is completely new, blue sky and white clouds and sunshine falling through the trees. That's the beauty of bicycling, that you never know.  Exposure making each hour or mile more keenly felt, the intensification of the everyday, the adventure of the mundane.

[Bridge relativity.]

A friend once send me a letter describing a journey not on bicycle but on foot, walking a pilgrimage through Spain. He wrote:
We're averaging just nine miles a day but this is plenty so far. It takes your feet and body a week to get used to getting up every morning at seven AM, eating a little breakfast and coffee, walking eight or nine miles with a break here or there and repeating this day after day. After seven days, I'm finally used to it. We get to our next destination by noon or one PM. We wash stuff, shower, or chill for a bit, then I go draw for a few hours. Then often communal dinners, sleep, repeat.

The main thing that strikes me is how you could drive this 180-mile distance in three hours on a freeway but, in 'shortening' distance, the car makes human transit (moving through space) into a drab affair that destroys the space through which it moves. We both know this but a long walk puts the modes in stark contrast -- drive for three hours in a boring mundane way in diminished space at great expense (personal and planetary) or take twenty days to walk it in what can become this highly detailed, fantastic adventure.
So much is written about the glories of speed, but speed is a relative concept. It has no inherent meaning. I still keenly remember my first trip in my first car, driving alone from Saint Paul to Massachusetts and, afterward, contemplating the space I had crossed. The rubber tires touched every mile between my homes, tracing a line across the landscape. I felt I had learned something important about the scope of the terrain between.

Yet compared to the car, bicycling grants rich dimensions of topography, climate, and the experience of air itself, and unfathomable intimacy with the land. Yes, driving offers the transcendence of space by seemingly limitless energy. But bicycling -- or walking! --  is to immerse your limited body in the great variety of Earth. Soon afterward, a rich feeling sinks into your limbs, the knowledge of distance, weight, movement, the wealth of space itself.

[Stillwater in the distance.]

22.8.16

Noteworthy Dive Bars of Downtown Minneapolis Bicycling Tour this Thursday

[Link to Google.]
Mousey’s. Moby Dick’s. The Anchor Inn. Brady’s Bar. The Saddle Bar. The Pink Poodle. The Carousel. Casa Coranado, The Copper Squirrel. The Blitz. The 5 Bar. The Key Club. The Cascade 9. The Longhorn...

All gone dives. To be honest, there's hardly anything left.

Jane Jacobs’ classic 1958 Fortune Magazine essay, Downtown is for People, extended an early feeler for what would become the urbanist masterpiece, Death and Life of Great American Cities. In it, she lays out some of the principles and methods of her madness. She writes,
“Downtown … there is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them, not buildings, that we must fit our plans. This does not mean accepting the present; downtown does need an overhaul, it is dirty, it is congested. But there are things that are right about it too, and by simple old-fashioned observation we can see what they are. We can see what people like.”

Yes because downtown is different. Downtown the prize, the gleam in the eye of the dreamer, the tramp, the politician, the moneyed scoundrel. Downtown is  battleground of territory claimed, abandoned, re-claimed, fortified, released, scoured, and rebuilt for over a century.

[The old sign of Moby Dick's.]
Dives of downtown are different too. For one thing, they hardly exist. Rents are high here and dives thrive on marginality. Downtown dives are the most precarious things, short lifespans like insects. But also hard to eradicate, also like insects.


This tour will trace a line around the edge of downtown. approximately 4 miles by bicycle. We will meet at an odd place, Mortimer’s Bar on Lyndale and Franklin, a wonderful classic dive by the “bottleneck”, a suitable name, the place that once marked the beginning and the end of downtown, the edge of the seam between downtown and the pastoral landscapes stretching south. From here we will bicycle to a few past dive locations, places where a dive bar or two might have thrived, in their way, for a few years or a few decades. A pilgrimage to Moby Dick’s, the (in)famous downtown dive bar where you got a free drink if you turned in your AA badge. A stop at the old Hubert’s to peer in at the remodeling. A few pauses in the Gateway, and a trip down an alley. Then we will retire to a new and old dive bar in the North Loop, each with a story to tell.

Almost without exception, the dives of downtown Minneapolis have been erased from the landscape. But traces remain. See you then!

[Looking out onto Washington Avenue.]


What: Guided bicycle tour of three (3) current and two (2) former, and countless (•) lost dives of Downtown Minneapolis
When: This Thursday, August 25th, departing at 6:30pm
Where: Leaving from Mortimer's Bar on the corner of Lyndale and Franklin
Why: Because it's there... or because it's not there
Who: Anyone. Free. Please consider tips or supporting me on my Patreon page!


[Part of a wall at Cuzzy's.]

19.8.16

Sale on 2' X 3' Saint Paul Flags -- New Low Price!

I have upgraded my store and placed the small size Saint Paul flags on sale! You can now purchase them for the low price of $23.

The Saint Paul flag is a unique historical flag that dates back to 1932, and solidly above-average as city flags go.

Read all about it on my previous posts. For example, the background:
The Mayor’s office does actually have flier on display with some information about the flag. Here’s what they say:
Saint Paul had a flag contest back in 1932 and Gladys Mittle was chosen as the winner of the best design of the Saint Paul flag on November 22, 1932. Her prize for the best design was $150.00. Gladys was an art student at the College of St. Kate’s.

$150.00 back in 1932 would be about $2,400 today, so that’s an OK haul. 

I like this story. Apart from a page in Polish, there is absolutely no information about Gladys Mittle on the internet. I wonder what she was like. I wonder if she lived long enough to see her flag completely forgotten by the city around her. She is Saint Paul’s Betsy Ross!
Or the history of my flag distribution patterns:
Over the past two years, inspired by a friend in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood, I've been organizing flag purchases. They're cheaper if you team up in groups. Since the first order, I've helped about sixty people get their hands on a fine Saint Paul flag. Since then, the yellow, red, and blue flag have been spreading through the city slowly but surely like toe fungus.

Since the "Saint Paul flag campaign" began in 2013, city flags have only grown more popular. Check out Roman Mars' talk about city flags, or the campaign of this guy from Milwaukee to fix the Milwaukee city flag which, along with Minneapolis' juvenile effort, ranks as one of the worst in the Midwest.

I have been distributing Saint Paul flags around the city for a few years now, and they are starting to catch on, especially certain areas of the city. It's exciting to see city pride catch on.

Order yours today at the online store. If you live in Saint Paul, I will deliver your flag by bicycle to your doorstep. (For the rest of you, we'll make arrangements for shipping or pickup.)

Happy flapping!

16.8.16

Twin City Bike Parking #23

[Midtown, Minneapolis.]

 [Location forgotten.]

 [Summit Avenue, Saint Paul.]

 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 [Saint Anthony Main, Minneapolis.]

[Rice Street, Saint Paul.]


 [Como Park, Saint Paul.]


[Rice Street, Saint Paul.]