September 17, 2014 § 2 Comments
September 15, 2014 § 1 Comment
A Gabriel Garcia Marquez novella. Articles on homelessness in St. Paul, final photos of the World Trade Center in the months before 9/11, and how to live in Manhattan (conclusion: it ain’t cheap).
What I read last week, why I read it, and why I liked it (and a quote to entice you):
- What I read: Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1981)
- Why I read it: Since Garcia Marquez’s passing in April, I’ve wanted to read one of his books. When a recent article named this one of the best novellas ever written, I decided it was time.
- Why I liked it: The reader discovers in the first sentence what will happen at the end, that Santiago Nasar will be killed. What we’re left asking, however, is why and also why no one tries to stop the ambush and murder, for abundant chances arise. A friend of Nasar’s narrates the story 27 years after the murder. He acts as an investigator piecing Nasar’s final hours together, ultimately discovering the role each character played in Nasar’s life and death and how his violent and untimely demise still haunts the main characters years later. Garcia Marquez’s simple, beautiful writing keeps the reader disbelieving the murder will occur because of the murderers’ reluctance at times to follow through with the plan and the ridiculous reason (at least in today’s world) for insisting on it (to restore a lying woman’s tarnished honor).
“All the many people he ran into after leaving his house at five minutes past six and until he was carved up like a pig an hour later remembered him as being a little sleepy but in a good mood, and he remarked to all of them in a casual way that it was a very beautiful day.”
- What I read: “As Homelessness Overwhelms, Dorothy Day Center Struggles, Plans” by Tim Nelson (Minnesota Public Radio, September 9, 2014)
- Why I read it: Plain and simple, I, like most, worry about homeless people, especially those living in Minnesota’s cold climate. I drive by this center regularly and have noticed a growing number of people congregated outside its doors.
- Why I liked it: The story emphasizes the desperate and growing need to house the homeless in St. Paul. Nelson focuses on the lack of services Dorothy Day provides, as it was never meant to be a homeless shelter, but it has become the place where 80% of homeless in the city go to get off the streets at night. The good news is a new center is being built to deal with the increased need, but it won’t open for another four years. And there doesn’t appear to be an alternative plan to serve this growing population in the meantime.
“Dorothy Day was never supposed to be this way. It was built in 1981 with just two bathrooms, providing meals and services just during the day — with no sleeping accommodations. Now, as many as 250 people sleep inside each night, most on mats on the floor. Dorothy Day provides 80 percent of the shelter to homeless single adults in Ramsey County. It started turning people away for lack of space three years ago….’Every time I go in there I get sick,’ [Leticia Bell] said. ‘The ventilation system is not equipped for housing people up in there. So, all night long, all you hear is people coughing and in the morning, you can’t breathe, you can’t talk.’”
- What I read: “How to Get to Manhattan? Save, Save, Save” by Joyce Cohen (The New York Times, September 11, 2014)
- Why I read it: I’ve contemplated a move to Manhattan in the recent past, and I’m always curious how people go about finding and buying an apartment there. The moment I saw the headline, I was intrigued.
- Why I liked it: “Like” is a strong word. A better description is it opened my eyes wider than they already were to how expensive it is to live in Manhattan. I was pumped at first, thinking the buyer’s price range, though steep, was manageable ($450,000 for a one-bedroom apartment). Then the article began talking about the additional monthly cost of maintenance ($800-$1300), and my heart sank. Again, nothing I didn’t already know, but a reminder I didn’t appreciate.
“[Anna] Gole, analytical through and through, came of age during the financial crisis. ‘It was scary and it motivated me to work at something I was interested in,’ she said. ‘While other kids were talking about happy hours, I was talking about mortgage rates.’”
- What I read: “Take Picture” by Nick Paumgarten (The New Yorker, September 15, 2014)
- Why I read it: It’s an absorbing profile that includes haunting photos of Windows on the World and the World Trade Center towers taken in the summer prior to the 9/11 attacks, and it touches on the search for Konstantin Petrov, the man who took them.
- Why I liked it: This story has everything — photos, mystery, themes of art and loss and perseverance. A lot is contained in this five-minutes read.
“For whatever reason, this Petrov had turned an archivist’s eye on the banalities of an office building and a sky-top restaurant, which, though destroyed in one of history’s most photographed events, had hardly been photographed at all. The pictures were beautiful, too. Devoid of people, and suffused with premonitory gloom, they made art out of a site that most New Yorkers, at the time, had come to think of as an eyesore.”
* * *
Fall colors, inching closer:
September 13, 2014 § 1 Comment
The Replacements play their long-awaited hometown gig tonight. I’ll be a no-show, not because I dislike the band or couldn’t get tickets (I didn’t even try). Frankly, I’m indifferent, but given all the press and stories that my brother and friends have shared about their music and how it influenced them, I feel I must give their records another listen.
* * *
The Powederhorn Porchfest was my venue of choice today. The bands, playing on front porches across a two-block stretch of Minneapolis’s Powderhorn neighborhood, don’t have the draw of a Paul Westerberg, but a healthy crowd of hipsters and kids and dogs came to listen. There was a woman with a VW bus from California selling balsamic raspberry pie. Art overtook some residents’ lawns. One musician clogged like a master. ‘Twas a dandy ol’ time and a suitable alternative for those of us without a date with the Replacements.
* * *
My only regret in not going to the ‘Mats concert is I won’t get to hear “Waitress in the Sky” played live. I suppose I could have requested it at Porchfest. Opportunity missed. Lesson learned. Rock on.
September 12, 2014 § 2 Comments
I watched a crew demolish an abandoned building today. Research confirmed that the building, erected in 1890, was originally a German gathering spot called Dietsch’s Hall, then it became a bar, and then a bar, and then another bar. A guy at the site shared its troubled history with me — shootings, beatings, and a violent death in recent years — which I confirmed via newspaper reports.
According to a St. Paul Pioneer Press article, a couple had recently purchased the 124-year-old building in hopes of turning it into a Somali business and community center.
Alas, the City of St. Paul chose to raze the property at 601 Western Avenue North instead, insisting the damage and violations were too numerous. In addition to fire- and safety-code violations, the two-story brick structure had a rodent infestation and mold issues. I can attest to the latter, as the odor was overpowering at the site, and it wasn’t difficult to imagine the former. As someone who has lived in an old NYC tenement, rodents adore a storied old building.
Yet I hate to see these old haunts go.
At least what remains is colorful.
FYI: If you live in the area and want old bricks from the 1890s, they’re up for grabs. Also, if you’d like to read more about the building and its history and see a photo before demolition, visit Twin Cities Daily Planet to expand your horizons.