Maybe that's my public art project for the month of November. Name tags.
From St. Louis, MO.
What if, for one day, we all wore nametags? One of the things about living in a city is that you feel like everyone is a stranger. It's awfully easy to feel lonely out there. Just knowing the name of the person sitting across the aisle from you on the bus, or standing in line with you at Target- I think it would be a lot easier to see people as people, and not just strangers. I'm willing to bet crime would go down, random acts of kindness would go up, and people might just be a little happier.
Maybe that's my public art project for the month of November. Name tags.
From St. Louis, MO.
Since I'm directing a show for Mounds Park Academy, I'm spending a lot of time over on the east side of St. Paul lately, which is great, as while I was growing up, we didn't got there much (except in 1985 to look at the Ice Palace on Lake Phalen). It's such a different flavor then western St. Paul- much more neighborhood centered, and definitely rougher around the edges. I had two experiences in particular that I'd love to share…
Experience 1: A darker side to the East Side.
As I was coming up over the top of Third street on my way into downtown (a block west of Phoenix Market), I caught what I thought was the tail end of some sort of confrontation: A group of Asian teenagers/early 20's gathered on a street corner, all riled up, one guy swinging something above his head, and another couple of guys, one black, one white (who was clearly pissed off about something) walking away. Not sure if something more was going to happen, I slowed down, and turned a corner to double back and watch, just in case I needed to call the cops. As I was heading back up 4th, I saw the same black and white duo going up the hill at a fairly rapid pace. My initial thought was- "These guys aren't just walking away, they're going to get something". So, I followed in my car, driving passed where they disappeared into a house. I rounded again, and started back down 4th, and there, half a block down, were the same two guys, except this time, the white guy was carrying a SHOTGUN. I'm not kidding. I immediately dialed 911, driving slowly down the block behind them. However, as soon as 911 answered, the guys turned around and started walking STRAIGHT TOWARD MY CAR. I dropped my phone in my lap, and just proceeded straight ahead, as the two guys and shotgun walked right past my driver's side window. Naturally, I was more than a little freaked out. I grabbed my phone, talked to an officer, turned around, and, keeping a good block between myself and the shotgun, followed behind the guys, trying to catch what house they went into. I gave the address to the police (who had, apparently, been receiving more than a few calls from people along the block), and then headed into Lowertown for a new play reading with the Gonzo Theater Group at the Baroque room.
I told the story of this whole ordeal to my roommate, Rachel, who group on the east side, and who didn't seem surprised- in fact, before I even told her, she guessed where I was talking about! So, I ask you, Saint Paul, what is it about this little section of the East Side that attracts this kind of violence? What can we do to help stop it? So much of this city is cool- what are we missing here?
I'd love any thoughts. This situation, although bad, could have ended much worse- what is needed in this section of town to move forward and keep stuff like this from happening? Any thoughts/feedback/revolutionary ideas would be welcome.
Experience 1: THE DARI-ETTE
My second experience on the east side was like the opposite end of the spectrum. I had dinner at the Dari-ette! On the corner of Minnehaha and Birmingham, The Dari-ette has never left the 1950s. They've still got the drive up boxes for your car, complete with extendable tray-holder, the whole place is lined with glass so you can see the team of teenage workers cranking out the food in the remarkably clean kitchen, and the menu hasn't changed in probably 50 years. They're know for the pizza burgers and have SPECTACULAR fresh banana shakes, (both of which are delicious, I know from the one other time I've been to the Dari-ette), but they've got malts, burgers, onion rings, soft serve, you name it- a truly American diner experience. I had the spaghetti with red sauce, which was nothing fancy, but the portion was great and the price ($6) was right. While I waited fro them to make it, I had a great time meeting some of the neighborhood folks who were out walking about the friendliest golden lab I've ever met (and who I practically had to wrestle to the ground), and a gorgeous rescue greyhound. It's a pretty cool place with friendly staff and ambiance that's hard to beat. My only gripes: another STYROFOAM to-go container, and I don't know where their meat comes from, so I'd hesitate to get a burger. We locals have to stick together, Dari-ette! It's not enough just to serve the hamburgers anymore- you've got to care where it came from.
SHAMROCK'S! (How did I not know about this place?)Down on Fort Road/West 7th there's an amazing bar called SHAMROCK'S that I visited for the first time ever this evening. It's a St. Paul institution- Juicy Lucys that rival MATT'S (that's right, I said it), a free shuttle for WILD fans, Irish Music, friendly and helpful waitstaff- even their broccoli cheddar soup seemed pretty dang good! I walked in to WILD jerseys and a band covering the The Pogues, and this place was DECKED OUT for Halloween! I don't mean some cheap-ass skeleton hung on the door, I mean the ENTIRE ceiling of this place was covered with witches and cobwebs. Awesome! And there was a DJ playing dance music tonight! Shamrock, I will return!
Until next time...
p.s. Not cool thing of the day, from my roommate Rachel: Interstate 94. Seriously, WTF. She said she was so mad that not even Justin Timberlake's "Rock Your Body" could save her mood.
I've been trying to figure out how I start writing this thing- what do I launch as the maiden blog post? But I could hem and haw forever, so here goes nothing!
Had a great day touring around St. Paul today- First stop was the Economic Development department at City Hall, where I turned in my final paperwork for St, Paul's AWESOME home improvement loan! You can apply for up to $20,000 for thirty years, INTEREST FREE. I'm not kidding. This is like Chris Coleman walking up to you, handing you 20 grand, and saying "Make your house a little better- it will make your city a little better." How cool is that? Granted, it's not available to every neighborhood, but if you're in Hamline Midway, at least, GO APPLY! Super Cool. After that I swung into St. Paul City Hall (not just cool- Freaking SPECTACULAR) and tried to surprise the unstoppable Joe Spencer, St. Paul's Arts & Culture guy. Have you met him? You need to. He's funny, smart, and is a total advocate for artists here in the city. Sadly, Joe wasn't in his office, so I didn't get a chance to tell him about my idea for a project that would involve 5 plays at cafes along the Central corridor, where you follow a character from one play, hop on the light rail, and follow that character to the next play location. Next time.
After that, it was over to the east side and Mounds Park Academy, where I'm directing their middle school play. Mounds Park is a pretty awesome institution, if you're unfamiliar with it. K-12, smart, funny kids and an AMAZING facility. Should all schools be so lucky! It's a private school, but the teachers really care for their students, and the environment is top notch.
The East Side of St. Paul consistently amazes me with its resilience and diversity. Rivaled only by Frogtown in its diversity, take a bus through the East Side, and you'll see every shape, size, age, and color of person. Having grown up in Roseville, I'm not used to such diversity, but I love it. It's a pretty good snapshot of the world we live in, I think. It may be a little rough around the edges, but it's AUTHENTIC.
Finally, the night ended with a St. Paul Community Ed class at Homecroft Elementary school. My roommate Rachel and I are taking a Chicago Style Steppin' course- $50 for ten two hour classes? An amazing deal! The teachers, Tina & Dwight are great, the class is composed of about the nicest people I've met, and the dance is getting more and more fun every time. Rachel and I are having a blast, although we'd love to get into something a little more "swing". Suggestions? I know, I know, THE CAVES...
So, now I'm nestled up in my (relatively) new home in Hamline Midway. The 8 squirrels that live in a 100-foot radius of my house have stopped their frantic search for black walnuts and food and are, until tomorrow, quiet. We've got a gallon of tea going on the stove for kombucha (tips anybody?), and will commence my evening with a brainstorm about how to spend the money that this awesome city is giving me. Goodnight, St. Paul!
Until next time,
p.s. Official NOT cool thing of the day- why is it that EVERY restaurant I go to in St. Paul uses styrofoam containers? I know, part of St. Paul's charm is that it never really left the 1960's, but STYROFOAM? Seriously, folks. I'd rather you just put my leftovers in my bare hands than carry them out in that toxic waste.
Tyler. Hamline Midway resident. Actor, Director, Troublemaker.