It wasn’t my plan to be writing this blog entry: I was planning to be at the Capri Theater in North Minneapolis, watching Bedlam Theatre’s 10×10 Fest. But my car died (permanently) this week, so I’m getting around largely via bike until I find an affordable replacement. Just before 7 p.m. Wednesday night, I made it a few blocks up Broadway onto the Northside before deciding that biking home alone through that neighborhood at 11 p.m. was not something I thought it would be a good idea to do.
As I biked back to my house in Loring Heights, I thought about a lot of things.
First, I second-guessed myself. Was I being paranoid? Was I being unreasonably afraid of “North Minneapolis” rather than looking at the North Minneapolis that actually exists? To some extent, probably—but I’ve lived in big cities for my entire life (excepting five years in Duluth, which has issues of its own), and I’ve learned to trust my gut. Men standing around in big groups, run-down storefronts, beat-up cars…it’s unnerving to be around people who are living closer to the edge than the people you’re normally surrounded by. It felt right to take caution.
Then I felt disappointment. By fleeing the scene, wasn’t I reinforcing the community’s sense of isolation? Of course—that’s exactly how it works. That’s why poor communities stay poor. But as an individual, I can only do so much. As an organization, Bedlam Theatre is challenging its audience to step outside its comfort zone, and Bedlam’s organized a walking tour of Broadway and a group bike ride from the company’s temporary Seward headquarters to help bridge that gap.
Then I thought about my own disadvantage, relative to last week—I don’t have a car. Public transportation takes time, you can only bum so many rides from friends, and biking can be challenging in bad weather or neighborhoods where bikers’ relative vulnerability makes a difference. I’m lucky to have a lot of choices in life: I could hurry up and buy a car if I really needed to, and if I needed significantly more money than I have now, I could find a higher-paying job. I’m choosing to sacrifice some creature comforts to work at a job I love, but I could make a different choice if I needed or wanted to. A lot of people in this city, and others, don’t have the choices I do.
Prior to tonight, losing my car felt almost liberating: I don’t have to worry about taking care of it any more, and I don’t need to pay for gas or insurance. When hail rained down on Tuesday night, I wasn’t one of the many Minneapolitans who feared for the roof of a car or a house (another thing I don’t own). Biking around town, it sometimes feels like the whole city is mine. Tonight was a reminder that it’s not.
I may be legally allowed to cruise around the Northside in my preppy polo at all hours, but I’d be sharing that neighborhood with a lot of people who live there, some of whom might like to extract an informal fee for my temporary use of the space. Shit happens everywhere—this week Twitter was buzzing with reports of a vicious beating at a Whitter intersection I’d have no reservations about biking through at 11 p.m.—but more shit happens in some places than in others.
I’m not entirely daunted, though: I’ve arranged a taxi ride, and on Thursday I’ll be visiting the Capri Theater for (I’m embarrassed to say) the first time. I’m looking forward to seeing the show, learning a little more about a corner of Minneapolis I don’t often visit, and contributing in a tiny way to the massive efforts being made by many people to open the Northside to nervous Nellies like me—nervous, justifiably or not. In the meantime, I felt like I had to heed the oft-repeated advice of my late grandmother: “Take care of yourself—only you can do that.”
This post was written on Wednesday, May 11. Read Jay Gabler’s review of the 10×10 Fest, and summary of reactions to this post, here.