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.