My kid: “Since we’re going to see the Matisse exhibit at the MIA can you show me any of the other apartments you lived in the Wedge in the 80’s?
Me: “Oh yeah. I’m thinking of one dump in particular where I spent some of my wonder years.”
This apt was located between Pleasant and Pillsbury on the north side of 22nd next to the alley. The landlord’s name was Oliver, Otto or Oscar. Oscar was a crusty gent who didn’t ask for a lease or any rental agreement. I think I saw a for rent sign, checked it out, handed Oscar some cash and there it was. I must have looked all right because he handed me the keys and Charles (Chuck), my aspiring alcoholic, work buddy and low-level raconteur roommate and I had a new place.
The place was unremarkable and by a slacker’s standards not bad. Once a week before dawn a trash truck pulled up right outside my bedroom window and the noisy hydraulic dumpster emptying mechanism woke me up. This insult is not something I would suffer as an adult but back then I was like “whatever” rolled over and crashed anew.
My neighbors and succeeding roommates are what made 22nd and Pillsbury memorable. Upstairs lived a group of several Palestinian students. One winter morning a shivering wrapped in a blanket Mohamed knocked on my door and asked for help with the heat. I went upstairs to find shrouded Middle Eastern young men gathered around an open gas oven trying to warm up. I think the thermostat needed an adjustment, I got the heat back on and in gratitude Mohamed brewed us up a pot of Turkish coffee which was my first experience with that strong stuff. Mohamed I think still owns the Middle Eastern restaurant on Nicollet near downtown; he’s a nice guy and remembered me the last time we chatted maybe 15 years ago.
We went to the Y to play basketball but the boys didn’t quite get the concept of dribbling and they quickly began running with the b ball, tackling each other and then playing indoor soccer. An excitable bunch you might say.
They were cool with me and I didn’t think much about the big Yasir Arafat poster in their living room. Until the day that is when several squad cars descended and armed cops in flak jackets raided them. The cops ignored us downstairs and I don’t think they found any weapons or whatever they were looking for in Mohamed’s place. A friend of mine visiting had to ask the cops to move their unmarked Crown Vics so he could get his car out and they were quite nice abut it. The Palestinian guys soon moved out.
Three young ladies from an equally exotic locale, Virginia, Minnesota on the Iron Range replaced them. They came to the big bad city to … that’s right to study cosmetology at Aveda reinforcing my growing impression that greater Minnesota is basically a regional feeder for young ladies who think they want to style hair for a career. Two slacker guys downstairs and three cosmetology students upstairs had all the makings of a sitcom but it was mostly G-rated. One of the girls was a tough Joan Jett type name of Rhonda who hung out in heavy metal clubs on Payne Ave in St Paul. She talked us into having a kegger where we were supposed to charge admission and give guests a plastic cup. Problem was she didn’t show until late and Chuck and I proved inept at collecting money. After the bars closed on Payne Avenue Rhonda arrived with a crew of shaggy metal heads who didn’t quite mix with my skinhead punk friends. Plus the beer was almost gone and we had no profit. Not good. Nonetheless it was a wild party, someone lit a bonfire in the alley and a few folks went coed skinny-dipping in Cedar Lake and came back laughing and telling everyone all the details using the noun tomato as an adjective. Oscar showed up early the next am pounding on the door demanding we get out there and help clean up the empty plastic cups strewn in the yard. So a successful party.
I think soon after the girls were late with the rent and a drunken Oscar let himself into their place, ate some of their food and fell asleep on their couch. The girls moved out.
Sadly so did Chuck a NE Minneapolis guy with limited appeal as a roomie and the feeling was mutual. I’m glad he did because we might not of otherwise stayed friends. Even sadder buddy Chuck was replaced by the worst roommate ever, Failed Salesman Phil.
Why was a Fort Dodge, Iowa guy liked Failed Salesman Phil up here in Minneapolis? It was never clear. Phil owned one worn and shiny in the seat brown corduroy suit. His career goal was to make a success out of selling AmTapes on commission. AmTapes were advertising and coupons printed on the back of sales receipts. That’s actually a thing now but not because of Phil.
“Poly-cotton! Yep Poly-cotton, ya’ warsh it, hang it up and it looks like it just got ironed!” he ‘d say when he put on his hideous suit to go sell AmTapes. I don’t remember him ever making a sale.
Failed Salesman Phil chained smoked nasty Old Gold cigarettes. Phil drove a Ford Pinto and was behind on payments. One day two large dudes showed up to repossess his crappy car and were seated on my sofa. They had no intention of leaving and I ended up forking over $75. Phil’s skanky girlfriend Tammy from Cambridge, Minnesota showed up and moved in. She chain-smoked too. Tammy worked as a house cleaner for an outfit called Merry Maids and boasted of rifling through client’s belongings and stealing their cocaine. Phil’s brother showed up with his wife and a couple of squawkers in diapers and stayed for a couple of days. The brother relentlessly tried to sell me quantities of HerbaLife. Somehow Phil and Tammy moved out before me but not before making a bunch of long distance phone calls on my dime. I got a huge phone bill with hours long calls to Frigging Fort Dodge made by that rat bastard Failed Salesman Phil.
My kid: “Cool story Dad! At least Phil and the other neighbors gave you some Minneapolis Slacker memories, right?”
Me: “I suppose. You can’t make this stuff up. Hey there’s the place … Dang it looks good the yard all landscaped and a new tree I don’t remember in front. Oscar must have sold it.”
Which goes to show you that everything happens for a reason. In the example of me living on Pillsbury and 22nd in 1984 what does that even mean? I do not know. But, I’m still fond of Turkish coffee and never drink it without thinking about my crazy slacker days in the 80s.