Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The vibrancy of Minneapolis

The city of Minneapolis holds many titles, one of which according to the statistics of MeetMinneapolis.org off shoot glbtminneapolis.org is the second largest per capita community of GLBT in the country. The most common way one would notice this would be through the abundance of the pride flag. Which is emblazoned across porches, windows and many signs of religious congregations throughout Minneapolis.
The reasons for how and why the GLBT community here has become a staple of the city are without a doubt varied and intricate. Yet much information is being compiled and processed in a archive here on the University of Minnesota campus at the Jean Nickolous Tretter collection. St Paul also has a library dedicated to the topic of GLBT issues, the Quatrefoil Library.

My personal experience of sexuality came from being reared in the conservative heartland of our state, Stearns County and the city of St. Cloud specifically. This area is the constituency and main voting block that has re-elected congresswoman Michelle Bachman. While the values and emphasis of importance of family that I was instilled with are without a doubt a stronghold of my personal identity. Theses same values are often only extended to those people who we identify with. Growing up I felt a glaring irony in people who often espoused ideas of selflessness and communal charity, yet would show contempt for those whose social beliefs differed from theirs. I was lucky enough to have many adults around me give an example different of that. Something more tolerant and akin to the oft uttered phrase "condemn the sin not the sinner." My parents themselves showed variety in the example they set. One showing a Dorthy Day like belief in religious values lighting a path to a caring and harmonious existence of humanity. The other parent countered with what I took to be as a agnostic hands off approach, always playing devils advocate to my burgeoning rebelliousness. Leading me the believe that to hold to certain ideas too radically can shut you off from others who hold valid and differing opinions.

This active versus hands off approach to the leading of lives, and our own personal role in humanity was conflicting yet helpful to my current mindset. Giving me a joyfulness in living within the diverse community of Minneapolis. Where one is just as likely to see a Muslim Somali woman dressed in headscarf walking with her children around town as you are to see a gay couple walking adoringly hand in hand. (see play idea at bottom) In the minds of many who live in and around my hometown both sights would be an affront to their beliefs of how things ought to be in America.

I have come to see through personal experience and my believe that history shows there are no social indicators to what is correct or what should be pursued. From the Spartan tradition of older male sexual mentor-ship to what some would call savage tradition of physical manipulation of facial orifices or East Asian foot binding. Cultures develop and flow/adapt to survive, yet some don't. Societies collapse or are suffocated by new and sometimes invading ideas. Humans as a species are not static and thus all kinds of humans must be celebrated.

Science and the bible would say that the lack of ability to procreate make homosexuality a confusion of humanity. Yet propagation has been only one factors in the evolution of species, many of whose forms have no sexuality at all. Many beautiful plants are neither male or female, many of earths critters create beautiful asexual reproduction (like these two slugs). So as the Twin Cities enter it's second largest summer event known as TC Pride Week, we can reflect upon it's history/locality, and celebrate the diverse and fluid nature of human sexuality.

Minneapolis evolving as a milling town there was a much greater population of single men working the mills to make their fortune as the frontier was being pushed, one could make the assumption that circumstances such as these give men more acceptance in indulging feelings normally suppressed in older times. Similar to the cause of rumors about what went on in the Navy. Much more information can be found at OutHistory.org.

To embellish the stereotype of gay culture we can see in the Twin Cities the production of large amounts of theater, according to my favorite source "Wikipedia" second only to New York per capita in productions. A thriving art scene found in museums like the MIA, The Walker, The Weisman, The Minneapolis Russian Museum of Art, and a plethora of art galliers and artists that are on display at the many art fests throughout the city like Art-A-Whirl and the Uptown Art Fair. As well as fostering trendy 80's dance music from artist like Prince and the chart topping Funkytown.

This weeks celebration is the third largest in the nation of it's kind and will continue to grow as the benefits of living in such a great city spread. I have decided to get in on the action and created a T-Shirt for sale spreading my business and love for Minneapolis Diversity.

If our species never evolves into the beauty of slugs we should at least note that our current quid pro quo is only temporary and that shifts of beliefs/social norms are underway.

On an somewhat humorous note I have been fostering the idea of writing a play concerning the "Don't ask don't tell policy" and the comments of Iranian President Mamoud Ahmadinejad. Where president Obama creates a covert super squad of homosexual lovers in the homage to Spartan thought. Their mission is to topple the Iranian fascist regime, and in turn celebrate sexual freedom with a dance party in the streets of Tehran.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I drink it up, the legacy of our usage, and the future of our milkshake

Last night I attended Policy and a Pint at the Uptown Theater on Hennipin ave. The crowd was packed full of other bicycling enthusiasts. There was a air of cool and alot of rah rah rhetoric from the speakers. The most engaging of which was David Bryne, who touched on the essance of a city and the positive experience of being engaged with the streets rather then merely riding ontop of them in a car. He expressed his opinion of city design and showed pictures of thinkers like Buckminster Fuller who I mentioned in my last post. City design isn't a new thing, and it's too bad none of the three local speakers talked about the Grand Rounds and Horace Cleveland. This man and his vision similar to that of Fredrick Law Olmsted helped pave the way to allow Minneapolis to be the great bicycling city that it is today. The trails and paths we have are in existence because of our parks that allow for great non motorized traffic. The Grand Rounds is the best example. The third speaker Jay Walljasper did make good points about spacing, the ability to engage in your neighborhood with the community is decided around how close you are to them. He commented upon the streetcar history which dictated the spacing of our city through WWII. The streetcar made things walkable after the connecting stops, forcing a person to move through the city without motor for some part of the way.

What they didn't comment upon is the financial side of transportation. When gas prices go up people talk about the expense of driving, not when gas is cheap, because we fail to incorporate the future costs to health and environment within the price. Bicycling is cheap and so is public transportation when you incorporate in on a mass scale. Yet public transportation faces funding issues constantly. Always the media covers the issue and mentions costs, proposed budgets.

What I would have liked to know and perhaps should have asked is it possible to secure funding Mass Transit based on future increased tax revenue. This is how much of our park land was aquired, as the Parks Board estimated increased property taxes of surrounding areas of parks into the budget (this got them in trouble in the depression era, but depression is trouble no matter how you slice it). One could look at the increased land value along the Hiawatha corridor as an example.
Mass Transit does so much better when it is done with a profit motive. Our own Thomas Lowery (for whom Lowery Ave and Lowery Hill are named) was highly profitable in his Twin Cities Rapid Transit Company. He was first a Real Estate businessman, and profits came as land was purchased prior to building the lines, and then when people saw the advantage of living near those rail lines the land value increased and was sold at a large profit. Not a new technique and one extremely profitable for national railroad barons who got land cheaply through federal land grants. Increasing the wealth of men like our own James J. Hill. The Rapid Transit Co. was one of the premier urban rail lines in the U.S. and maybe not extremely profitable(especially after the attraction to autos and their ensuing dominance after the depression) but it is if you factor in things like taxes from land value.
In my recent visit to New York people informed me that rent and real estate within the city was somewhat scaled to the proximity to major transfer stations where departure to all parts of the city can be found within a couple square blocks. If urban centers are to grow as some predict, there is hope that we can use examples of transit systems already in place near dense areas to deflect the congestion that comes with vertical residential growth.

There was mention by the moderator at Policy and a Pint of our average winter temperature, Minnesotans love to talk about the weather here, and our bicycling resilience despite the cold. When exiting the theater we were greeted to a beautiful orange/sepia sky bursting with clouds. To which one in our group responded that a storm must have passed and the recited the adage "Red sky and morn, Sailors be warned

Monday, June 14, 2010

"Nice Ride" Blue Cross taps into bicyclists pick up line

I attended the Break for Breakfast event at Peace Coffee HeadquartersAdd Image, The food was decent for free, and the tofu scramble was hearty. The bicycle community is growing here, there is no doubt about that. This day coincided with the Launch of Nice Ride a bike sharing program already going in Montreal and Paris. My hope would be that people buoy the popularity of such program into actually owning their own bicycle. There is a blog that tracks all the programs of bike sharing around the globe, it is informative enough but I think this program should be more of a stepping stone rather then a means to an end.
Congestion of traffic is mostly due to the fact that automobiles evolved as four seat machines. What I tend to see in traffic is one person driving around in the automobile. If there were more motorcycles and scooters the congestion would be almost nothing in our population center. In dense populations where traffic is horrible, as I witnessed in Jakarta, motorbike are the preferred speedy method. If our goods were shipped as inefficiently as we do our people in cars the price would be noticeably more. I mean look at the horrible design of Costco milk carton in the Upper Right, but such a design is produced in the name of shipping efficiency. Perhaps we should look at the automobile design of Buckminster Fuller, The Dymaxion, much more compact, and what do you know, designed with efficancy in mind getting 30 MPG's in 1933. Look how far we have come.

Space has never been much of an issue in our manifest destiny country, yet it will be more and more, as our resources are depleted and we focus our lives to live more simply without the luxury and abundance of space. Perhaps we will even have Standing Bars for our nightlife in the future as they do now in Japan. That would help twofold, you would burn more calories to have yourself be smaller and the floor space would be saved from over sized chair to rest your tokhes on.

But there was plenty of seating at the Break for Breakfast, the hosts of the event being well prepared. Our own Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak stopped in with his daughter to show his pro-bicycle stance. I was sitting along taking in the scene, finishing my coffee, when two others sat in the circle of chair and started up some chatter. Unfortunately one of them wanted to promote her political stance, as she had just landed a job with Gubernatorial candidate Entenza. While he may be a decent guy, I should have cut her off and said I only support 3rd party candidates in statewide and national elections. I think Dayton should run as a 3rd party man myself, he already has the money and name recognition. Yet he should run dressed in a fur cloak and scepter. The heir to the fortune of Target Corporation, he could hearken back to our history of electing the wealthy businessmen of our area. Like the Washburn's before him, yes the same Washburns whose W is represented in WCCO, and are the founders of General Mills. Whose philanthropy has given us the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, located on Cadwallader Washburn's former Estate.

But don't worry the opulent residents of this state have no reason to protect their personal interests when in office, they will fight tooth and nail for the common man. As demonstrated in the 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters Strike.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It's still spring

This past Sunday was balmy as I took to the mean street of St. Paul for Grand Old Days. I pushed my cab up and down Summit Ave for the better part of four hours. The name summit brings ideas of a mountain top, yet here in the Heartland of the midwest, there are not mountains only hills and slopes. Yet when the weight of humans is cargo (we are dense creatures, mostly water but have you ever tried carrying water? Very dense) each gradient is felt in the thighs.
The benefit of going uphill is downhill speed, and this cab can go downhill very well. At one pint when departing west from Snelling Ave I shouted to the riders "hold onto your hats, this is the fun part."

I also happen to pick up Steve Seel a DJ on The Current who was in a hurry to intorduce a band a half mile or so down the road. The shuttle there is infamously bogged down by the other thousands of people looking for a place to park along Summit. Necessity is the mother of invention and huzzah there I was inventing a fun new way for him to get to where he needed to go. He then mentioned such a ride on his radio show the next morning, I was sleeping and resting my muscles, but a lovely soul passed on the shoutout and I was proud to have had such a prominent figure take a ride.

As Business heats up with more and more festivals, there is also a scampering among the animals. The one at war daily with the automobiles. Here is one more casualty I spotted on Freemont Ave and 31st st south. One day I hope to have shown a light on these horrors much in the way Matthew Brady did.

The Boxelder's look as if they are in formation to mount a counter offensive, southside beware.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Broom with a View

Last night was the one night a year when people are free to climb into the tower (witches hat) atop Prospect Park. When I pulled the pedicab up the hill the scene was packed with people engaged in fundraising and family friendly merriment. The neighborhood engaged in a Ice Cream Social to raise money for something or other. The main draw was the view, the retreating ice glaciers have left a Moraine in the area just east of the University of Minnesota.
These are wonderful high points in a rather flat city and offer a spectacular view or both Minneapolis and St. Paul. People lined up for hours to get a peek. The line reminded me of an Amusement park thrill ride without the stanchions and rails to help the weave of people. My friend and I sock wrestled to fill the time and perhaps hope the line would move faster when everyone say the violent discontent it was causing.

The line did not move further or faster. We gave up as our other compatriot had seen the view and said that while a good view, not a hour and a half wait view. There were perhaps throughout the night a thousand or so if not more spectators for this beautiful scene. Nature creates these high points and we are subconsciously attracted to them like earthly tourists. This is our cities Grand Canyon and it only is open one night a year.

The high points of the city are also great for property value, as many affluent neighborhood spring up on such sights like Prospect Park, Lowry Hill, Linden Hills and the old Whittier neighborhood of where the MIA now sits.There is also a correlation to proximity to water in many affluent areas, something our ancestors may have had a better understanding of, a more primal instinct of where to set up living quarters. Water hold a spiritual place in the soul of humanity, in the baptismal font, in the tidal flood plains where sea faring animals will nest. We feel it sitting on a beach or watching a waterfall sometimes, and in our daily lives there are tinges of it speckled through our day.

The trinkets of running water that people keep bedside on upon their desk, purchased at 'peir 1' or Sharper Image perhaps reflect a hangover from this instinct. Curvy roads also help detract from non residents moseying through the high altitude areas, this can be seen in low areas where property values are also high like Brynn Mar and Tangletown neighborhoods. These are the place you show out of towner's, where prospective emigrants my want to come live.

The beauty of our natural world is there, but the beauty of it's people I find in the grunge of where I live near. the places you don't show prospective movers.

You don't show them Chicago Lake intersection, or Broadway Avenue as it streaks through Northwest Minneapolis. The boulevards of litter and chicken bones from a nearby KFC. The empty Newport Cigarette packs and Funyun bags that I kick around before walking up the front steps. Places where an occasional gunshot rings out the realities and struggles of urban living, that all is not well with humanity, but their is beauty there as well. In the poetry of strife and hope for a better tomorrow.

I digress, the night went swimmingly and I ate my fill of Ice Cream. We coasted down the moraine to quieter streets of Seward, and filled up on conversation and fellowship.

Later though I took a birthday drive along Calhoun for a co-worker celebrating their day of coming into existence. It reflected well the hub bub of the uptown drunkenness that I encountered after in picking up rides. A bit near Two AM I picked up some longtime residents of Mpls, and the asked for a stroll along Lake of the isles, I though why not two lake rides in one night. The day was filled with nature, these lakes more man made, not the original swamp land that had existed when the St Anthony Falls started to be exploited and created a metropolis around it. These lakes are the workmanship of dredging and molding, a vision of both Theo Wirth and Charles Loring.
These two gents behind me smoked and conversed in pure merriment as the peacefulness of such a last night. The recommended DJ smirks as a local hip hop talent that I should check out.
All in all a good evening.

This is Uptown on a Friday in summer.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Future of Cities

I saw this Ghost Bike while wandering around Brooklyn while visiting my good friend. I was pleased with the amount of biking in NYC, but with the ease of the trains, walking seems like such a simpler choice. Maybe folding bicycles are big there? But I didn't see too many more there then I do here. The driving there is nuts, not as much as I had seen in Jakarta but the congestion seemed almost as awful, but faster due to a planned grid system.

The Ghost Bike makes me think about cars and death. Automobiles are the most likely weapon people own that they could kill someone with, and the possibilities of that happening are so much more real as people drive everyday and begin to take it carelessly and text in the meanwhile from here to there. Most automobiles are huge pieces of metal that fling themselves along our ribbons of concrete and asphalt propelled on the remnants of fauna millions of years ago. Yet there is a lack of caution at the amount of damage they can cause. There is drivers ed, and every so often people are jolted by the death of someone they know by car accidents. These are few instance where people wake up to the destructive power these amazing machines can produce.

Yes automobiles are amazing machines, and they will always have their small purpose and niche within the world, but there need to be better recognition of the benefits of investing in alternatives where absolute auto freedom is needed. Most of us want to just get from here to there, as long as we can do that and look the same as we did leaving the house people are pretty satisfied. As a biker I am not satisfied, with the amount of 5 seat or larger cars I see driving around with 1 person in them. The way people don't see the perils of talking on the phone and driving at the same time.

The next MPR/Citizens league sponsored Policy and a Pint is titled

Cities, Bicycles, and the Future of Getting Around

I have already procured tickets and plan to hear what has to be said, and I hope to heck they mention the amazing projects of Living(woonerf or Home zone) Intersections being attempted in Europe, where the car is a guest and the priority goes to walkers, then bicyclists, and then public transportation. Last should be cars and autos. The thought by many drivers is that roads were made for us. Historically roads have been around much longer then cars, longer even then bikes. Romans build roads before the death of christ, so roads are a development of humans moving more then cars needing a path. Many times I have heard a person yell from a car "get out of the road" or "Use the sidewalk". These people probably don't realize that bicycles pushed for the creation of roads long before cars were more then a novelty. The League of American Wheelmen pushed for road creation from legislators.

Bicycles never became the dominant paradigm of transportation, sadly now law enforcement officers who are only doing there job are stopping bicycles from going where they like and confining them to the rules set out for cars not to kill each other. The heartbeat of red and green lights stop the crashing flow of metal boxes, yet bikes could weave through each other like the soft cross weft of yarn. Even a roundabout, more similar to water percolating through dirt then the jumpy stop go of streetlights provides a more bicycle friendly alternative. Yet bikes are lawfully thought to follow the rules of cars, even written in is the need to stay to the side of the road. to be a little blasphemous I'd say bicycles are the Rosa Park's of transportation. When the danger bikes pose are almost non existent, the need for such rules seems silly, and bikes will almost never experience the trauma of an accident where they were the cause of sending someone to the hospital by smashing into them on a bike.

I saw this cool contraption in NYC as well, this dog was pretty cute.
The Picture at the top...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I like to think change is generational. Sayings like "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" are somewhat defeatist but hold water in their observation. Bicycling holds its future in our youth. Normalcy is what you grow up with, and children who tend to think and live within their own experience are usually constrained to a couple hundred mile radius of their home. Therefore I hope that the youth of Minneapolis will continue to forsake the world of the automobile as they grow older.
The turnoffs of bicycling can be the humid heat of Minnesota, many adults shun the thought of arriving to work laced in sweat. Children of a certain age are oblivious to their appearance and hopefully the dirt and sweat that go along with bicycling will be as innocuous to future adults as a ice cream stain on a t-shirt is to a four year old now. The joys of riding a bike for adults may be as good if not better then the joys of ice cream for children. Also for those of you weight conscious out there more bicycling equals less guilt in creamy indulgence.

Today as I walked through South Minneapolis after visiting the delightful new coffee shop along Chicago Ave South City Cafe I passed by the south facing side of the prison designed High School of south. I was surprised and excited to see the bike racks so crowded that the street signs near there had also been contracted as a hitch-n-post. The future looks bright as I made my way to past and on to the area of the Midtown Farmers Market where my bearded brother will be selling the fruits of his labor from Laughing Stalk Farmstead.

Perhaps if the future bodes well and the Gulf Oil Spill wakes people up to the destructive behavior of what many feel is our way of life the pictures above will have a better correlation, both will be overly massive creatures that were unsustainable in the changing environments of earth.