Other side of the river (Minneapolis, MN)

Still finding my blog legs here.  In an effort to make myself some kind of stable base to start from I am taking this “where am I?” idea pretty literally.  I’m at a Minneapolis institution, Hard Times Cafe–still sometimes a hive of villains and scum-bags.   There is a cafe culture in the Twin Cities that does not exist to the same extent in Chicago.  This one of the tragedies of Chicago to me.   Twin Cities coffee houses provided me places to socialize despite my introversion, places to connect with, or at least identify with people of different backgrounds.  I’d say they are counter-domestic places, I mean they are great semi-public places for young people to start to see the rest of the world up close without the constant interference of the home’s atmosphere, whatever that may be.    Starbucks or Caribou might be able to provide some of this, but a place like Hard Times or the late Rosey’s ( R.I.P.  near Grand and Dale in St.Paul — Jesus, I still feel the place in my chest as write this!), they produce an atmosphere that cannot be imposed from a corporate HQ. (Well, rambunctious kids can even take over a McDonald’s and make it their’s on a temporary basis. ) These places have a magic combination of care and abandonment by the local authorities (proprietors and staff), apathy and passion, that accommodates dirt and darkness,  the bumming of squares, the line between loiterers and customers is very blurry.  These are places where desperate people might be able to relax for a minute or two and touch down.  Very important.

Anyway, just down stream and around the corner along this river of cars  (Franklin Avenue) is a place called the West Bank Social Center.   A place I have not visited yet, but I am gratified to know that it exists.  It’s an open-ended cultural space that hosts a lot of different events and activities (reminds me of one of my favorite places in Chicago, uh, Mess Hall!).  Next thursday I will go there for the first time to attend the a conference, Beneath the University, the Commons.    It goes through Sunday, when I will accompany a group of collaborator-friends in presenting a workshop, Cartography with Your Feet.  It’s a workshop to introduce people to the idea of radical cultural corridors, and the illumination of inspiring, radical cultural activities happening across entire regions, not merely in large urban centers.


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