OPINION | I was a mall Santa

An alcoholic, otherwise-unemployed Santa in the movie Miracle on 34th Street or Art Carney as Henry Corwin in Twilight Zone’s “Night of the Meek.” That’s what came to my mind when a mall-manager friend of mine offered me the Santa job in the early 1990s. His Santa had been showing up drunk or not at all. I was unemployed and living in Sturgeon Bay, Door County, Wisconsin, with a nonexistent job market; I took Robert up on his offer.I donned the cheap, fleecy red costume with black plastic belt, pulling the white trimmed red hat and white wig down to cover my eyebrows. No amount of Lysol™ would remove the idea of germs or someone else’s spit on the inside of the beard and mustache attachment. As I took my seat and waited for dreamers and wishers to visit, I wondered whether to use my own, female voice or try for a deeper male imitation.The first few children accepted my deep voice with its “Ho, ho, ho.” “Ho, ho, ho,” by the way, is not very easy to transfer to a real, natural-sounding laugh. Continue Reading

OPINION | View from my porch: Last house standing

Even as I write this, a community member asks me, “What is the status of the ‘adobe house’?” This 393 Bates Avenue structure is also known to some as the “last house standing.” As cranes, bulldozers and trucks work away in the great pit surrounding this solitary island, some see the predicament only as an impediment to the footprint of Metro State University’s parking ramp. One neighbor noticed activity around the house, jumping to the conclusion that demolition was pending. The lot’s perimeter has been shored up, leading to more questions about the future of the house. I notice changes in the landscape every time I walk past. A gap in the earth – is the digging around the property causing the “island” to weaken? When the hanging flower pots disappeared, a neighbor asked if it signified a dire change; but no, the plants just needed some tender care and watering, so owner Jim Smith had temporarily removed them. To those who watch the house, the flowers serve as a visual reminder that water, electricity, and life still flow there.

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Homeless shelter, parking ramp, food co-op raise traffic and quality of life concerns in Dayton’s Bluff

Dayton’s Bluff Land Use committee and a handful of community residents met at the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council office on February 3 to hear representatives from Mississippi Market, Greater Frogtown Community Development Corporation, Metropolitan State University, and the Dorothy Day relocation project.Mississippi Market presented an update on its Seventh Street building plan, façade, and a first look at potential green space. Meetings with various city departments are in process. Any time business or services expand or locate within or near a residential area, accompanying traffic can challenge the quality of life for those who live in the neighborhood. Proposed traffic patterns and traffic flow on Maple Avenue are being closely monitored by area residents who are already working with Metropolitan State and its proposed parking ramp. The proposed ramp is wrapped by north/south Maria and Bates Avenues and east/west Seventh and Sixth Streets. Continue Reading

OPINION | Front porches and yards: From space-keepers to place-makers

A few years ago, several of us met on a thickly littered block and spent a few hours picking up trash. A man came running out of a house yelling, “Why are you picking up that trash?!” I responded, “Because it’s here and affects everyone.” He offered a response that has remained with me: “Don’t do it; my landlord will take care of it.”The trash was in the public area, and didn’t necessarily come from that particular residence. On any given day, my neighbors and I can pick up garbage tossed from cars (Wendy’s, McDonalds, and Burger King containers; condoms, plastic gloves, filled diapers, shirts, underwear, socks, as well as the typical papers, broken lighters, and even the rare bag of marijuana).This man opened several questions, including: Who ‘owns’ the litter in front of my residence (yard, sidewalk, and street); Why are or how disconnected are residents from their actual neighborhoods? I mean living within the walls, but not really seeing as their responsibility the yard, sidewalk or street beyond their physical walls. I won’t even venture into why people don’t act more responsibly about disposing of litter.Several years ago I was union-organizing in Anoka County. Continue Reading

St. Paul: David Barton Reflective Garden offers place for peace, wisdom, calm

Peace. Green and white signs in Dayton’s Bluff remind people to “Be Peaceful.” A small group of residents gathers at Mounds Boulevard and 6th Street to encourage peace, not war. How appropriate that a Circle of Peace™ labyrinth has recently become a part of the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood. Tragedies are not uncommon on the greater East Side, but people who live and work here are stronger than any hardships they face. Most are, I believe, people of peace and people who look out for one another and for the good in others.

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