06 August, 2009

Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, MN

For those of you unfamiliar with Franklin Ave, its east-west run is the closest thing to a latitudinal bisection between Minneapolis' downtown and uptown districts as you'll find. Not as culturally relevant or commercially diverse as its southern parallel, Lake St in uptown or as ambiguously anti-important as its northern one, Washington Ave, in downtown (Really, what goes on there?), Franklin does bare the distinction of inspiring unease in people as it is home to so-called "bad neighborhoods". I can only assume these are bad neighborhoods from the things I've heard. A shining example would be the time I walked down to grab a burger. A friend asking me where I went and I told him I just walked down Franklin. He responded, "You walked down Franklin?" Actually, I make a two mile round trip on Franklin once per week or more.
I live a block off of Franklin and three blocks to the west is Nicollet, the sort-of border between the bad neighborhoods of the east (my side) and whatever Shangri-La supposedly exists to the west, as the class strata is evident to anyone with eyes; there are far more boarded up buildings on the east side than there are the west side. My neighborhood, specifically, the border region between Nicollet and the 35 overpass that encompasses Stevens Square and Whittier Park, can at first be assessed by the uninitiated as a "Somali Town" or a "Little Tijuana" (actually the name of a so-so punker-run Tex-Mex joint a few blocks south on Nicollet in the district officially marketed as "Eat Street"). Upon closer inspection one would find a mix of all sorts in this tiny border community: mohawked bicycle messengers and skinny art-fags, devout Muslim Somalis, Hispanic gang-bangers, disenfranchised Blacks... if it were fifty years ago and there were heroin involved, William S. Burroughs would be haunched over his bug-infested typewriter, vodka-Coke on one side and cigarette burning away in a tray on the other, furiously pounding away some junkie's tale that he would later cut up and repaste into a completely disparate psychedelic mindfuck that would probably incorporate pistols and needles and the word "spic" or "darkie" thrown in there somewhere for good effect.
It's once you cross east over the 35 overpass, past the Electric Fetus, that you really begin to see any sort of Somali town with Halal markets peppering the strip, men standing outside wearing polo shirts and speaking into silvery midrange cellphones while women in headdresses walk three wide down the sidewalk and display an amazing inability to drive. Further down the main drag, one runs through small clusters of unemployed Amerindians and dark-skinned youths in shirts that drape down to their knees as though redefining the operation of the word "dress" in "dress shirt". People down the strip are loud, raucous, and, above all, weird. In all the time I've been traversing I've been accosted for change only two or three times, I've had a guy ask me for a pair of gym socks, and I've had a guy who walked next to me as I carried my groceries and prayed for my soul and asked for nothing in return. I've seen an elderly drunkard push his elderly wife over in a bus stop only to have he retaliate by smashing him in the ribs with her walker. I've visited Mexican family-owned bodegas where one could by DVDs and shoes. In none of these travels, have I ever encountered anything that would inspire dread. Because they're people, not wild animals.
In short, any sort of special preparations one is told they must take to walk east away from the multicultural border town at the "Nicollet Wall" as it were is pure Caucasian hyperbole.
There are no special considerations to be made prior to walking down Franklin. Except perhaps for one: Expect something either weird or dumb or both. It's not everyday you'll see a white, bedenimed, drunkard crash a Colombian Independence Day Celebration outside of an upscale bakery by faux-masturbating with a tamale. It's not everyday that you can hear from a park the sound of someone's tone-deaf Eartha Kitt impression used caterwauling Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" in such a creaking croak that you'd think somebody was pulling her tail. (That's a Cat Woman joke.) (That was also this morning, actually.) And you certainly won't happen across some of the dumber shit I encounter at my primary destination on Franklin: Aldi.
I could tell you of some of the myriad dumb shit I've seen at Aldi, like the woman who jumped her husband's shit for picking out instant potatoes and told him how to properly push a cart, but instead, I think I'll tell you about Aldi security.
Dumb motherfuckers.
I travel preparedly: I carry a messenger bag with a jacket in it in case it rains. I also carry a multitool and a bottle of Beano in there along with this month's round of bills to be paid and receipts of bills paid along with a water bottle I always forget to fill. I also use this messenger bag to carry my groceries.
The first time I went to Aldi without using a cart, the security guy stopped me to look in my bag. His voice was of tired boredom and his search was so slap-dashedly half-assed that I couldn't help but wonder why he even bothered to search my bag at all. His actions were limited to unzipping the bag and quickly albeit lazily moving my jacket, then saying, "Thanks."
Thanks? He hadn't really done anything.
It was precisely because he put no serious effort into rifling through my things that all I was left to assume was that it was a matter of making a statement: "You see? We search the white folks, too!"
Yes, I could've told him that actually I did mind him searching my bag, but that forgets that, first of all, I had nothing to hide as I had done nothing wrong, secondly, that I would've been taken aside into some back room while the cops are called to make me participate in a bag search (because once you refuse a bag search, you can't be let off premises for fear that you stole a fifty nine cent can of lima beans), thus throwing off my schedule and turning buying a block of cheese and a can of diced tomatoes and chilis into a bigger debacle than what's needed, and thirdly, there's a gigantic fucking sign above the check out aisles that says: "WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO SEARCH ALL BAGS". Understanding these triplet concepts, I figured that it was best to not make a scene or turn this into a civil rights-based debacle over my Fourth Amendment rights.
But the brevity of his search made me wonder: Why even bother? And I thought it was seriously to make a point, that he just wanted to let the black folks know that the white folks get searched, too, so that the black folks could rest assured that security at Aldi is equal opportunity. Justice at Aldi is color blind.
But then today, I needed to pick up some tortillas and a loaf of bread, so I didn't need a cart. Here's where I can draw my parallel. This is the second time I've ever been to Aldi without the aid of a cart and the second time my bag has ever been searched at Aldi. No cart equates a bag search.
The difference is though, that the guy searched my bag the moment I came in. I came in, walked over to the tortillas and Security comes over and asks, "You mind if I take a look in your back pack?"
This is pure asininery and my natural knee-jerk instinct is to tell this mouth breather to go fuck himself through the eye socket and see if that loosens up some of his smarts; there's absolutely no way I could've have stolen anything from the time I entered to the time I got to the tortillas. I wound up giving him the condensed version: I guess you can but, y'know, I just walked in here.
"We have to check them at different times," he says as he makes the same half-hearted broken shell of a man search attempt the other guard made while I look at a ten pack of burrito sized tortillas, then he concludes with, "Thanks for being a good sport."
I grabbed the tortillas then a loaf of bread and made my way through the check out where the Somali woman in front of me kept such a distance from her groceries that if you weren't already focused on hating her for holding up the line, you'd swear they were made with plutonium-239. I finally got to the cashier, paid my dollar seventy eight, and stuffed the tortillas into the bag. Passing the security guard, he said to me, "Have a good afternoon." A twinge of hatred brewed inside me and I found myself wanting to smash my loaf of bread into his moustachioed face then punch him about the ribs and kidneys after he fell over.
I said yeah and then crossed the threshold of commerce out into the so-called bad neighborhoods where a fetching Jewess was the first sign of life I encountered on my return trip home. In the course of assessing her, though, I took in the Amerindian feathers tattooed on her ankle and reconsidered, trudging forward to my border town, where the high school drum core decided to begin their parade through the park at whatever community event is occurring over there currently. Music to sooth the savage beast within, eh?

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