29th November 11
Good news, everyone! I have a studio space now, in the Faux Poco collaborative, situated in an old brick warehouse on Vandalia Street in the mighty Midway of St. Paul.
Some of you obsessives may recognize the project ephemera festooning the wall: the screenprints from Potboiler, some handouts from last year’s Common Room, the jersey from Retroactive Minnesotan, and many of the charts and related materials from the already-legendary 2012 U.S. Cities Contemporary Art Rankings: A New Hierarchical Approach. It is like the Hard Rock Cafe of Andy Sturdevant-related art projects!
Come visit me sometime. I’m planning some regular critiques and artists talks for 2012. Or better yet, become a member of Faux Poco: you can buy a shop membership for as little as $50 a month, which gets you 24-hour access to a screenprinting shop as well as a wood/assembly shop.
In closing, remember to save the planet, and also to love all and serve all.
29th December 10
The new work, Broken Manual, is itself very zine-like in its most basic format: it’s a paperback, tape-bound at the spine with the title that appears to be crudely lettered-on with a Sharpie. The text throughout — supplied by Morrison, and covering the “Steps to Disappearing” utilized by “hermits and hippies, monks and survivalists” — is printed in uniform, 12-point Times New Roman font, and it looks very much like something printed off a laser jet at Kinko’s. The text portions appear on stock green and pink, 8 ½” x 11” paper. With the exception of the high-quality reproductions of Soth’s photos of shacks, mountain vistas, and survivalist ephemera throughout (and the imprint of Steidl, a well regarded German photography and fashion publisher), Broken Manual looks much like the sort of thing you might see for sale at a gun show.
Earlier this year I went to Alec Soth’s studio in St. Paul to look at his new collaboration with Lester B. Morrison, Broken Manual, and wrote about it for the newest issue of Rain Taxi. You can read it here.
11th November 10
Wait, what? I don’t get it. Damn it, New Yorker cartoons never make any sense.
4th June 10
I once confidently stated in these very pages that in the annals of art and design, there was only one example of ice hockey and the Lost Cause comfortably co-existing: in the logo of Virginia’s Roanoke Valley Rebels of the Eastern Hockey League, circa 1971.
I am horrified to learn that I was incorrect in this assertion. Above is a Golden Gophers hockey-themed maroon-and-gold Confederate flag, hanging at the Gopher Bar in downtown St. Paul.
Oh my god. Where to even begin? A fucking Minnesota Confederate flag?
The St. Paul poet Paul D. Dickinson and I went to the Gopher Bar for lunch yesterday to eat what they bill as “the best fuckin’ Coney Islands in town,” and take in the atmosphere, which might best be described as “authoritarian Palinist/libertarian North Country dive bar” — equal parts U hockey memorabilia and wildly tasteless anti-Obama paraphernalia. Also, lots of signs with swear words on them (“no fucking credit cards”). It’s the only place in town I know of where the proprietors swear at you. Maybe bar owners swear at people all the time on the East Coast or in Chicago, but it’s not the kind of thing that goes down in the Upper Middle West that often.
The Coney Islands were indeed amazing. The decor was horrifying. The swearing was hilarious. What a terrible place! What great Coney Islands! What uncomfortable moral dilemmas!
On a purely logistical note: where do you even buy a maroon-and-gold Confederate flag? Are they specially made? Maybe by the same people that make the Minnesota SSR flag?
15th April 10
Since Tumblr hero Mills just broke the exciting news that he and Will are relocating to San Francisco, it seems like a good opportunity to finally bring out this post that’s been moldering in my drafts section for a few months. Below is some advice on moving to San Francisco from last year from Matthew Honan’s blog. I am fairly sure I first read it on kottke.org, but it’s stuck with me. Honan advises potential transplants to, first and foremost, be certain to move to San Francisco proper:
…I don’t simply mean that you should not live in the East Bay or the Peninsula or Marin. I mean live in a part of the city that your great-grandparents would recognize as being San Francisco. Somewhere that was entirely residential, and all of the homes in your neighborhood existed, prior to 1915. If you’ve only lived in SoMa, you haven’t lived in San Francisco. I know a lot of people who’ve moved here from somewhere else only to settle in SoMa…or South Park or China Basin or some other reclaimed part of San Francisco’s industrial past. Big mistake. If you haven’t lived in one of San Francisco’s traditional neighborhoods, you’ve missed out. You haven’t ever gotten to experience one of its primary joys…This is a city of small communities, each with its own character. Get to know one, with its small shops and locally owned businesses, and you’ll find it infinitely rewarding.
This really interested me: the Great-Grandparents litmus test. I was wondering if this same test could be accurately applied to other cities. Would your great-granddad recognize your neighborhood as part of the city you live in? If so, does that make your experience more rewarding? Here’s Karina Wolf on Bright Wall in a Dark Room, writing about the neighborhood in which The Royal Tenenbaums is set:
It correlates with the more modestly numbered streets of Washington Heights where you’ll find a hilly Manhattan full of shambling buildings. The neighborhood is downtrodden and grand: a reminder of a time when New York’s greatness was still under construction. One of my friends, a new New Yorker, moved up there because he thought that’s where he’d find the real city.
The real city. In this case, the portions of Manhattan your great-grandfather would recognize as the newest parts of the city. If you’re looking for summer reading material related to the old New York, Steven Millhauser’s Martin Dressler captures the spirit of that time and place very well.
It’s worth noting that my homestead on S. 12th passes the test, although just barely. My house was built sometime around 1910, as were most of the houses in the area. South Minneapolis, as I’ve written before, is laid out on streetcar lines — houses were built on narrow lots and clustered together, with commercial and light industrial areas located every several blocks on the streetcar lines. This arrangement does make Powderhorn Park a more cohesive neighborhood than others. The older neighborhoods in Minneapolis have that feeling, too: Loring Park, Stevens Square, Marcy-Holmes, Phillips (or at least the pockets not totally devastated by the freeway construction in the 1960s), Whittier, Nicollet Island, Elliott Park, wide swaths of Northeast and North, the less farty portions of Uptown, the parts of the West Bank that weren’t also torn up in the 1960s to build the University expansion. Not coincidentally, these are the places in Minneapolis I’d most want to live.
Of course, Minneapolis isn’t a particularly old city — very little of the housing stock is older than 1900 or so, and almost nothing is older than the Civil War. The further south or northeast you go from downtown, the newer the buildings get, until you reach either the first-ring suburbs or about 1960, whichever comes first. Powderhorn Park itself was practically a suburb in 1910. Said a couple of Minneapolitans a generation earlier about building parks in the city:
‘Why do we need a park? There will never be a house south of Tenth Street.’ Another opponent claimed: ‘The whole city south of Franklin is a park.’
St. Paul, of course, is about twenty-five or fifty years older than Minneapolis in most portions. Most St. Paul neighborhoods pass the Great-Grandparents test. I am pretty sure almost every neighborhood I’ve lived since I was 18, with the possible exception of Bryn Mawr in Minneapolis, has passed the test.
So what about your neighborhood? Has living in an older portion of town versus a newer portion made for a dramatically different experience? Would you rather live in Morningside Heights than on Long Island? What parts of your city would not compel your great-grandma to ask you what you’re doing all the hell way out in the boonies? Are those places nice places to live?
"It was ‘OK, we’re not from L.A. and we’re not from New York and we’re not from London,’ but we felt pretty good and we could play with the best of ‘em.” But the problem was not that they weren’t from L.A., New York or London — they weren’t even from Minneapolis. “We were St. Paul people, which was like East Germans,” Hart explains. “So we had to live that down."
6th April 10
Grant Hart of Hüsker Dü, in Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes From the American Indie Underground 1981-1991.
The poet Paul D. Dickinson once explained to me that St. Paul-based bands and record labels in the 1980s were forced to buy PO boxes with Minneapolis addresses for incoming mail if they expected anyone living outside Minnesota to take them even a little bit seriously. To a New York music industry person, corresponding with some yokel in Minneapolis was bad enough, but corresponding with some yokel in St. Paul was infinitely worse.
2nd March 10
The newspaper obituary photo drop box at the Pioneer Press building. It’s these sorts of odd Ben Katchor-ish details that make downtown St. Paul feel so out-of-time in a way that downtown Minneapolis does not.
25th January 10
After a humbling, fumble-crazed loss in this weekend’s New Orleans-Minneapolis referendum, I suppose there is little else for the people of Minnesota to do but that which they have done for generations: crawl into a darkened, frozen teepee with the St. Paul poet Paul D. Dickinson, and read poetry and drink Hamm’s beer until April.
I am depicted here doing just that. Note the silk scarf and far-off look of consternation. It’s a way of life, reader!
Photo by Cyn Collins.
10th November 09
I was waiting for the 21 on University Avenue in the Midway this afternoon, when I heard the chattering of young children behind me. Children! I thought. In St. Paul! Why are they not in a St. Paul school? But of course they were: I turned around, and there I saw in front of me a large, tidy playground, populated by chattering groups of elementary school-aged children. The bus stop was right in front of a low-slung brick building that seemed to be, in fact, a school. On the front of the building hung a sign that read:
GERMAN IMMERSION SCHOOL
The children were laughing and playing, watched over by beautiful 25-year old teachers with dark hair pulled back in ponytails, dressed head-to-toe in chic black and gray tones. It was a very touching scene. A German immersion school! A German immersion recess! Sehr spannend!
One of the children wandered away from the group, up to the fence. He regarded me with curiosity and suspicion. “Mein Herr, warum Sie warten auf den Bürgersteig?” he asked. ”Warum kommst Du nicht mit uns spielen und unsere Lehrer?”
“I have to go to work,” I said.
“Wenn Sie sprach Deutsch, mein Herr, können Sie lehren uns Lektionen über Franz Kline und Joseph Bueys,” he replied. ”Wir würden uns sehr viel davon, und so würde unsere Lehrer.”
But before I could answer, one of the chic black and gray-clad teachers clapped her hands.
“Kommt, Kinder! Bilden einen Kreis und lassen Sie uns gemeinsam Gedichte rezitieren.” Hearing his teacher, my little friend ran back to join the circle. It was then that the 21 bus pulled up, and I got on board to return to work in Minneapolis.
(Note: None of the events described after the second paragraph actually happened.)