Change of Seasons

img_0812.jpgOn November 6th I had a milestone birthday. On the 7th I resigned my position as a hospice spiritual care coordinator. A few days later, a friend asked me I how felt. My response, “Exultant.” Singingly, dancingly, giddily, ridiculously happy. Not that I had disliked my work with hospice patients and families. I loved hearing their stories and helping them toward acceptance of the inevitable, helping them make peace with the situation, and at times, with each other. However, the hospice work, demanding on several levels, kept me from doing that for which I longed with my mind, heart, and soul.

Closing a door opens new opportunities. What I am feeling two weeks later is a deep sense of  shalom. Inner and outer peace. Four hours a day, six days a week, I have been typing words into my laptop. Words forming sentences, forming paragraphs, forming pages, forming chapters, forming (God willing) completed, published books that will bring light, humor, hope, and entertainment to readers.

The book I am working on at present is the first in a series of three. Number two is also partially written, Number three is sketched out. Another book, begun long ago, is also still alive in my mind and in a file. And I can envision writing a non-fiction work based on my Central Avenue NE blogs, maybe focused on the fascinating Thorp Building. This should keep my busy for a few decades.

This past Friday I had the privilege of hearing Chris Koza perform with his band at the Landmark Center. In my opinion, Chris is a musical genius and deserves huge concert  audiences and record sales. But no matter how talented the individual, be she musician, visual artist, actor, or writer, the road is challenging. Only the very few are “successful” as the world measures success. The recipe for succeeding as an artist may require luck, connections, or the ability to appeal to common tastes. Throughout history there have been millions of unremembered, uncelebrated creative artists, starting with the pre-historic cave painters. At least their works endure. Were there also musicians, dancers, dramatic performers in ages long past? 

Even though the work remains unrecognized and unappreciated, or vanishes with time, perhaps the spirit of all artistry endures. Is that what gives us the courage to do our work? Is this the source of what we experience as inspiration, that sense the the work produced comes from somewhere beyond ourselves? 

Friends, fearlessly pursue what you love. Make the necessary sacrifices. Take the leap. And let me know how it goes for you.

aerial photo of mountain surrounded by fog

 

As it Stands Today

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This 0.7 mile stretch, no more than a 15-minute walk is home to a surprising number and rich variety of businesses and dwellings. Below you will find what we have as of 10/24/18 in our target area of NE Minneapolis. As changes occur, and they will, the list will be updated. The properties on each block are listed from north to south. Note the number of businesses on redeveloped blocks versus those on blocks with original structures.

UPDATES: (1) This morning an electrical company truck sat outside the one-story vacant property on the southwest corner of Central and 22nd. (2) The “2 Amigos” store has a sign in the window advertising 50% off. Never a good sign. (3) I saw a man entering the empty block where Kim’s Chinese closed down this spring. The building appears run-down, so we will see if it stays or goes. (4) And I received some fascinating and spooky news about the Thorp Building. This will be further investigated.

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KEY: +Subject of Previous Blog Post; * Redeveloped Property; X Vacant
26th– Lowry (East side)
+ Eastside Coop
+ Holy Land Deli
+ Sabor Latino
Boost Mobile
Subway
26th– Lowry (West Side)
+ Al Amir
KCN Nails
X(Class Hair)
Sign Minds
Central Avenue Liquor
Islamic Community Center
Total Wireless
Central Giant Wash
Water Bar and Public Studio
Sarah Jane’s Music School
Duke Albert Lifestyle Collective
Abu Shanach Barbers
NSC Tax/MN Financial Group/Home Realty
+ Aki’s Bread Hus
Fair State Brewing
Recovery Bike
Mecca Linens
Lowry – 24th (East Side)
Empty Lot/Community Garden
Milago’s Salon
Paolitos Sur Envios
+ Khao Hom Thai
Panaderia Ecuartania
Phoenix Graphics
+ Adelita’s Mexican
Botanica y Herberio/Icebox Picture Frame
Jackson Hewitt Taxes
Lowry – 24th (West Side)
Liberty Tax/ Chicago Dollar/Spring Wells Massage and Colonic (Arcana Building)
+ Sen Lak Sen Lai
Dipped and Debris
Durango Bakery
Costa Blanco
+ El Taco Riendo
National Association of Letter Carriers
Metro PCS
+ Anelace Coffee
Los Gallos 3
24th– 23rd (East Side)
+ Football Pizza/Crescent Moon Banquet Hall
*Wells Fargo
*Central Clinic
24th– 23rd (West Side)
US Bank *
Madina Academy Central *
Multicultural Health Clinic *
Amana Dental *
Supermercado
Ecuadorian Embassy
Lions Tae Kwon Do
Amana Family Care
Central Insurance Agency
Language Central
23rd– 22th (East Side)
Martha’s Hair Salon
Divano’s Boutique
Central Flower
Degados PC Repair
El Trebol Express/Rushford Bingo Hall
Valeria’s Carniceria
Hafiz Travel Agency
Salam Barbers
Khalil Accounting
EZ Travel Services/Asly Care
X (IKE Vanity + Attached Vacant)
La Colonia +
Kinsthesia Massage
23rd– 22nd (West Side)
* NW Dental
* Community Connection Partnership
* Cornerstone Studios
* Life Track/Knockout Bodies
* Higgins Insurance
* Hennepin County Library Branch
22nd– 20th (East Side)
* MGM Property Management
* NM Designs
* Shift Massage
* H & R Block
* Rise Vocational Rehab
* Joca Rehab
22nd– 20th West Side
X (One-story brick building)
8-unit apartment building
IChing Arts
Old Brick 4-plex
Central Lock and Safe
20th–19th (East Side)
2nd Precinct Police Station)
20th-19th (West Side)
Cabinet and Flooring Liquidators
* Holland Neighborhood Improvement Association
* VOA Offices
* Monroe Village Senior Rentals
19th–18-1/2 (East Side)
The Mill NE + (former Porky’s Drive-In)
+ X (Bonicelli, 8/18)
Little India Grocery
+ Central Deli and Coffee
19th–18-1/2 (West Side)
LG Travel and Shipping
VIKG Insurance
The Agency Brokerage
The Cat and the Cobra
Magus Books and Herbs
Erlys Hair
18-1/2–18th (East Side)
*Parkway Skyview Apartments (high-rise)
*Senior’s Place/Food Shelf
181/2–18th (West Side)
X (Kim’s Vietnamese, 4/18)
X (Gene’s Barbershop)
X (Central Sauna)
Central Car Wash
House
4-plex
House
Central Dental
18th–Railroad Bridge (East Side)
Central Child Care
X Empty warehouse – lights on inside?
X (Flashlight Vinyl, 10/18)
Gaytee Stained Glass
Minsky Theater
Object Partners – Software developers
18th– Railroad Bridge (West Side)
NAPA Auto Care and Tires
Thorp Building – + Diamond’s Coffee/Tattersal Distillery/Numerous Galleries, etc.

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.

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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.

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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.

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All I can say is “blech”.

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

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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”.

 

Hill Valley Cafe, 3301 Central Avenue NE

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The modestly signed exterior.

Last week’s Eating and Writing up Central guest was my two year old granddaughter. This week’s companion will soon celebrate her 92nd birthday. My paternal aunt Lydia, who has a great sense of humor, works out with a trainer 3X/week, and went sky-diving on her last birthday, joins me for lunch at Hill Valley Cafe.

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Note counter constructed of doors.

Friends have recommended Hill Valley as a worthwhile breakfast/lunch spot. Our experience is mixed, due in part to there being a solo person doing the cooking and serving. There is only one other customer, the service is less than great, but hey, we are in no particular rush. Lydia opts for the B.F.C., a sandwich with turkey, ham, bacon, cheddar, lemon mayo, tomato, and greens, easily justified, as she worked out this morning. I choose the Veg Burrito, which comes filled with potato, eggs, veg sausage, spinach, tomatoes, and cheese.

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The B.F.C. I get that B=bacon, and C=cheddar, but what’s with the F?

The coffee is topnotch; the food is pretty food; the place is charming. Lydia’s sandwich is sizable. Half returns home with her for a future nosh.

I ask the server, a youngish guy, about the history of the building, which occupies a corner right across from the Columbia Golf Course. He reports that as far as he knows, it was once a law office, prior to that a private residence, and at one time a candy store. As it appears quite old, it likely has had many other incarnations. Online research reveals that it was built in 1924. On a real estate site it is described as a multiple family dwelling of 3046 square feet, with no mention of a business. Have we stumbled into the ultimate zoning mystery?

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The door leads to Z-Amore, a vintage shop that will be the subject of a future posting.

The decor is a mish-mosh journey through time, which I love. Lydia appreciates the old cookstove which serves a counter for beverages. As noted above, an interior door leads one step down to a mid-century modern vintage shop. We take a browse through, not buying but appreciating the quality, variety, and whimsicality of the merchandise.

Friends, this marks the end of our lunching adventures. It is today, and at this moment, I have arrived back at Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, where I sit in a tubular chrome chair sipping from a bottomless cup of brew, having devoured a piece of zucchini-pineapple bread.

Happy place.

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Diamonds Coffee Shoppe noir. Note bare foot in upper right. It is that kind of place.

Next week we will begin anew, slowly working our way back up Central NE, visiting non-restaurant businesses: Mecca Linen, Anelace Coffee, Divinas Boutique, Fair State Brewing, and Valeria’s Carniceria (that will be a real thrill for a yours truly, a diehard carnophobe!), and many, many more.

See ya soon.

 

 

 

Chimborazo, 2851 Central Avenue NE

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Flowers and candle on table.

This week I am accompanied by a charming guest, who is an adventurous eater, and sharply opinionated on any number of topics. I am anxious to see how she will react to the food served at Chimbaroza, an Ecuadorian/Andean restaurant popular with diners both in and out of the NE Minneapolis area.

First, four words of caution–beware the back parking lot. This is actually my third Chimbaroza visit. Each time I’ve parked in the lot, and each time I have struggled to get out. Easy in, tough out. Maybe it’s just me, but next time I will repeat this mantra–Park on the Street. My guest and I arrive right at 5:00, their evening opening time. Being a hot late afternoon, we decide to opt for indoor dining over the pleasant back patio area. Not surprisingly, we have our choice of tables. Over the next hour it will fill with happy diners of all descriptions.

My chum approves of sharing an order of Chupe de Pescado, described as “halibut sauted with pepper, onion, tomato, and a splash of white wine. Served with rice and patacones.” A peek at the appetizer section confirms that patacones are plantain patties. While awaiting our food we snoop around the two-room dining area and take photos.

The space is pleasant and comfortably lit. Wall art features photos of Andean people and scenes. Just as other diners begin arriving in droves, our food arrives. The kind server brings an extra plate for sharing.

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Perfection on a plate.

As you can see, the plate looks appealing. My companion first tastes the plantain patty. “Yum!” Then she tries the rice. “Yum!” Finally the fish. “Yum!” Forget Michelin Stars. Chimborazo has received the coveted 3-Yum Seal of Approval from my almost-2-year-old granddaughter!!! A sidenote–last week she and I were at the State Fair with other family members, including her mommy and daddy. Just outside the horse barn she looked at the Golden Gophers tee shirt I was wearing and spontaneously said, “I don’t like that.” “You don’t like my shirt?” “No.” It’s a good thing that in addition to being opinionated, she is beautiful, sweet, and brilliant, says her totally unbiased grandma.

The halibut dish really was fabulous. When you dine there, please order it and report back.

This is the 16th Eating and Writing Up Central blog posting. What an adventure it has been! Meeting unique people and eating mostly great food, while spending time in places that I would likely never have visited otherwise. Next week I shall document my final restaurant visit, this to Hill Valley Cafe on 33rd and Central. From there we will rewind and start again with a coffee at Diamonds. The plan is to chart a course back up Central, documenting interesting non-restaurant businesses along the way.

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Yum!

Thanks for reading. Go forth and have your own adventure!

Eastside Co-op, 2551 Central Avenue NE

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Happy mosaic on exterior wall

Full disclosure–I visit the Eastside Co-op at least once each week and have been a member for about a decade. However, until this week I had never purchased food from the deli, being the kind of person who tends to “cook her own” rather than do take-out. And if a meal out with a friend is on the agenda, I would lean more toward an actual restaurant than a deli.

Eastside underwent a major rebuild and renovation maybe three years ago. It was transformed from an old-school co-op to more of a Whole Foods-type set up. Initially I was unthrilled by the change. Now I am resigned, and in some respects appreciative of the care shown in the design and layout.

On to lunch. The deli has a made-to-order menu, hot and cold buffet/salad options, as well as pre-made salads, sandwiches, and desserts. I opt for the black bean burger with chips and pickles. The alternative side option, hummus and carrots, sounds a bit too healthy to suit my wild and crazy mood. For dessert I select a slice of raspberry bundt cake with vanilla icing. (I CANNOT think or write the word “bundt” without hearing the My Big Fat Greek Wedding version, accompanied by the perplexity inspired by a cake with a hole in the middle.)

The burger is above average, with a pleasant beany flavor, served on a toasted whole wheat bun with chipotle mayo. The accompanying chips and pickle are inoffensive. The cake is dense and flavorful. It takes me a bit to identify the spice used, but eventually I land on nutmeg, which I probably wouldn’t use my myself but then again, it was generally pretty good.

While the  deli is located in the far back corner of the store, the eating area is near the entrance. where there is also a coffee and snack area. The lighting and sound level are good, and the chairs and tables comfortable enough to sit for awhile and people watch.

I don’t take pics in the dining area as a number of the tables are in use, and it seems pretty creepy to be photographing people at fairly close range. Even I have my limits. The crowd is diverse, trending young, with a very high level of device usage. At one count, of the nine total diners/loiterers: a solo eats and studies with a pile of books and an often-checked phone, one couple and three singles sip beverages and nibble snacks while being engrossed on laptops or notebooks, a pair of women converse intently, and a group of three eat while making awkward conversation, interspersed with phone checks. I, of course, devote my time to eating, spying and jotting notes. Ah. The joys of Wednesday lunch.

Until next week from Al Amir Bakery, which appears to also sell food. We shall see…

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On another topic, what’s the deal with this stoplight?!

 

Sen Yai Sen Lek, 2422 Central Avenue NE

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Sen Yai Sen Lek means “Big Noodle, Little Noodle”. Cute. My personal noodle envisioned lunch at Costa Blanca Bistro, the next dining enterprise as we head up Central. But no. A sign on the door informs me that they open at 4 p.m. So much for lunch there! Fortunately, about 10 steps north one walks into the inviting atmosphere of Sen Yai Sen Lek. We (yes, for the first time on this adventure I have a lunching partner, long-time friend and former neighbor Janet who defected to the Pacific Northwest nearly a decade ago) choose the high-top table by a large window fully open to the sidewalk.

Open air dining at its best.

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Janet waits for lunch. Note my bag on the right. Mid-meal I rescue it from an elbow-induced near-fall out the window.

Our server told of us the lunch menu. For $12.99 one can order from a selection of Thai dishes. The special includes a choice of teas or Thai Iced Coffee. Easy choice on the beverage. If you haven’t had Thai Iced Coffee, as much as I cringe at the “bucket list” concept, add this to yours. All the lunch menu items are available with a tofu option, and heat level warnings are included. Janet selects the Pad Pad Taohoo (vegetables and tofu), and I choose Pad Bai Gra Pow, never before having eaten a Thai dish topped with a fried egg. Both are excellent. And I need to give props to the server, who is conspicuously gracious and helpful.

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Pad Bai Gro Pow, with a crisp egg drooping over tofu, green beans, onions, chilies, and holy basil. Spicy good!

Sen Yai Sen Lek fills up with a diverse crowd of diners as the noon hour approaches and passes. This being my first accompanied “blog lunch” I observe that I observe less of the atmosphere and people. What one gains from the great pleasure of dining with a friend, one loses in present-moment awareness of surroundings.

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Street view from the window seat. Khao Hom Thai is just kitty-corner across Central.

Towards the end of the meal, my work phone rings with a call to immediate duty for support to a hospice family whose loved one had just died. Over my years of providing spiritual counseling to hospice patients and their families,  many people have commented on how difficult or depressing such work must be. It is neither.

We are all going to die. Some will go suddenly from a heart attack or stroke, others will linger with dementia or another debilitating disease, some will “battle” cancer. The choice is ours only insofar as we take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually while we still have time. Hospice teams make it possible for people to pass with dignity and comfort. Their families have the support to help them come to terms with the reality that is facing their loved one, and also assistance in the tremendously challenging job of caregiving. I love being involved in this respectful process, and am humbled by the trust people show as we are invited into their homes and their lives.

One thing I have learned–joy cannot co-exist with fear.

Until next week from Sabor Latino!