Surveying the Street

IMG_2997On a persistently gray damp Sunday I slow-walk the 8 blocks from 26th Street NE to Diamond’s Coffee Shoppe and back north again, jotting notes on each building and taking photos until my IPhone conks out. A few passersby eyeball me and my little spiral notebook with suspicion. Or maybe it is just curiosity. Whatever. I focus on the detailed documentation of an area which has become my obsession.

Despite having traversed this section of street numerous times, I see what had previously gone unnoticed: a gorgeous old brick 4-plex; an abandoned storefront with a fading sign of a confusing design, “IKE Vanity”, perhaps?; a mysterious-looking stucco-faced building with a vaguely Asian design.

My desire to know more deepens.

Anyone know what is inside?

My own powers did not see it coming but the Psychic Reader is gone. In her place I discover, “The Cat and Cobra”, a vintage shop offering a collection of Harley tee shirts, boots, jackets, sweaters, and miscellaneous, which opened a couple of weeks ago. To my dismay, and undoubtedly much more so to the former chef/owner, Boncelli’s is out of business. Even the building looks dispirited. img_3786.jpg

The former Bonicelli’s, after two months.

A Central Avenue business person, who will not be named, shared his belief that the owners of the original buildings in this stretch are waiting for redevelopment demand to spread up from the lower end of Central NE. Properties will be sold, existing buildings razed, and the construction of new residential and commercial structures will commence. Many of the current businesses will be priced out. Hence, my effort to document what is here today. And thereby encouraging you (yes, you!) to come and wander amongst the wonders of the street.

Since we are in a somber and sentimental mood, let me share an image taken in front of the former Bonicelli’s.

An artistic statement or a relic? Either way, I love it.

A couple of blocks are already rebuilt. Tellingly, one houses a bank, another a realty development office, another a jobs program for economically disadvantaged people. A block-long stretch of new construction houses senior apartments, and Volunteers of America offices and programs, including a law office and the defunct-looking Holland Neighborhood Improvement Association.

All I can say is “blech”.

Contrast that with another structure which I hadn’t noticed until today.

This 4-plex appears to be winking. As in, “I’m still here!”

This adventure will continue and may result in a book-length exploration of the intersection of people, place, and time in the context of this neighborhood’s evolution.

For those who are as weirdly interested as I am, the next posting will be an all-inclusive list of buildings between 26th and the Thorp Building. Following that, we will visit the newly opened business “The Cat and Cobra”.


Bonicelli Kitchen, 1839 Central

20180426_123357.jpgMy visit to Bonicelli Kitchen causes me to reflect on the past, present, and future of Central Avenue NE. I have had the pleasure of meeting folks who grew up in this area of Minneapolis from the 1920s through the 1950s. All expressed surprise at its transformation from a neighborhood of predominantly Eastern European immigrants to an area populated by diverse peoples, many coming from East Africa, Latin American, and the Middle East. This demographic transition is reflected in the thrilling variety of the street’s cuisine. Now is the time to visit and enjoy, as I detect that another round of change which is already in process, not to imply that this is bad. Buddhist teaching would confirm that change is the basic nature of reality.

But first, the food.

Those who are following this blog may grow weary of veggie burger pics, but here’s a dandy. Housed in a pretzel bun is a burger made with lots of healthy stuff that manages to taste really good. 20180426_121509Served on the side are Asiago roasted potatoes, house-made pickles, and spicy mayo. Yup. I am happy. And my sense of well-being is enhanced by the excellent decision to order a Fair State Vienna Lager. Drinking at lunch is something I never do, but never say never. (Apologies for the cliche.) Perusing the menu I spy another 5 or 6 items that I would be happy to try in a future visit. On the right is a picture of the interior decor.20180426_115308

Back to the reflection on a neighborhood in the process of being reincarnated. The presence of an up-scale, chef-owned restaurant planted less than a year ago on the same block as Central Deli and Coffee (see my posting of a couple of weeks ago) is an example of the change coming to Central Avenue. As NE Minneapolis becomes a center for artists drawn here by studio and gallery space available at reasonable prices, people with money to spend will follow. The more affluent folks may see this as an area worth exploring, maybe even a place to call home. Real estate prices and rents rise, people of modest means move or are unable to buy, existing businesses may close or move. It is an evolutionary and inevitable process.

But for now, I joyfully eat and write.

My novel Borderland also continues to not only grow but to evolve. Those who write know what I mean. Characters take on a life of their own, and begin to have a hand in the plot. This past week I have been shaping and reshaping a scene in which Claire, the main character, is unwillingly drawn into a regular relationship with her neighbor Violet. In the process, Violet has to me revealed unforeseen complexities in her personality. Meanwhile, Claire is troubled by mysterious nighttime sounds on the other side of her bedroom wall.

Until next week.