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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Minnesota, Day Three: All Out Gang Warfare

Well, at some point Friday morning, we all woke up on the floor. The mattresses were packed at the back of the truck, but thankfully the blankets were not, so we didn't freeze in the bitter Minnesota summer, if you were worried, and I'm sure you were, but don't worry, we only saw two polar bears, a mommy and a baby, and they were too busy sledding and drinking Coke, just like in the commercials, which are basically just animated mini-documentaries, okay. My brother and I headed out to unload the truck while his wife unpacked the boxes. As we began unloading, we were greeted by my brother's new neighbor, a down-on-his-luck looking guy in his...I can't tell how old people are supposed to be up there...lets just say 50's. I know I exaggerate every now and then, but his exact words to us were:
A. No offense, but you guys don't look like you're from around here. You look really athletic, or something.
B. So you AREN'T from around here, huh? Just like I guessed. Well, you better get street smart real quick. You are surrounded by a lot of human beings. Know what I mean? WELL YOU WILL!
My brother and I immediately started shivering, clutched our lucky crawfish charms tightly, and nibbled nervously on our sugar cane soothing stalks. Is what he said really what it's like in the Great White North? Would we be drove-by (Is that how you say being murdered in a drive-by? Or do you say, "We got drive-by'd!" But if you did get "drive-by'd" you'd be dead, and you wouldn't be able to say anything, so then what would you say? "Mrhhrrhh, uh?" I mean in the unlikely event that you are not only killed in a drive-by, but re-animated as a zombie? How would you describe that action? Drive-By Zombie'd? I DON'T KNOW! WHY IS THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE SO CONFUSING!!!???!??!)? Were our deaths imminent? Did we drive all this way for nothing? We moved stuff from the truck into the house as fast as possible, constantly looking over our shoulders. Unfortunately, we hit a snag--my brother had to take a moment to put the beds together. This meant that, having nothing else to do, I would have to go for a walk in the dangerous St. Paul Streets. Fingers trembling, I grabbed a whoopie pie and a glass of milk, and walked down the street. The neighborhood was old and well-planted. Elderly couples waved to me from their front steps. Surely, this was only a trap. How could I know if I wasn't street smart? How does one become street smart? Does the street have to educate you? Do you have to go to street school? What if I flunk streetconomics?! I decided to keep walking anyway, giving my wife a quick call to let her know this could be our last conversation. We shared a tearful goodbye and I-love-you's, then I headed deeper down the dreaded street.
I have a fairly photographic memory, and I instantly memorized my way to Como Park, around the lovely Lake Como. As I crossed the street to the Lake, a friendly driver stopped and waved at me. This was my death knell. I was lured at this moment into a false sense of security, and that's why I didn't see them. You see, the problem is that I wore red--you see, in south-central LA(Louisiana), the Bloods are the largely dominant gang. Wearing red can save your life. You see, the problem was that in the North, the Crips are largely dominant...and, you see, the Crips wear blue. You see, they noticed my red clothing, and from my rough-and-tumble, shady look, immediately assumed I was a member of the rival gang. You see, you see, you see, this is why they jumped me.
I was completely unprepared. I had always been told that the world is fundamentally good, and that if you are nice to others, they will repay in kind. Kindness is not a word these St. Paul gang members were acquainted with. The only "k" word they were aware of is "kill" and maybe "krunch" his bones, since they said that right when they saw me, and they probably aren't that great at spelling. The first guy jumped on my back and tried to bring me down so that they could kick me until I bled out...but they didn't realize the kind of adrenaline boost they would be dealing with. As soon as I felt his arm around my neck, I screamed and took off full speed for the lake. Unfortunately, one of his minions tripped me and we both tumbled and rolled face first down the bank, crashing into the shallow, murky water.
"I can't swim!" screamed the gang member in abject terror.
I stood in water almost up to my knees, just as his head slipped beneath the surface.
"Stand up!" I shouted. "Stand up!"
"I can't hear you! I'm drowning!" These were the last words this noble warrior would ever utter.
The remaining gang members, ten at least, bright blue shirts, jeans, bandanas, tattoos, socks, K-Swiss shoes, and scarves shining in the sun, hesitated.
"Come on in, jerks!" I shouted menacingly. "The water's fine!"
"Say bruh, you killed our boy!" They sang in unision, in, I think, the key of E. The larger one, who I thought would be a bass, sang in a smooth falsetto, "We won't for-get thiiiiiiiisssssss!" They then held hands and did some strange sort of choreographed leap-frog dance back down the street, vanishing in the early September snow. Then the cops pulled up.
An hour later, I called my brother. "Hey, man," I said, "I need you to come pick me up. I'm at the police station."
"Seriously?" He asked.
"Yep. Nope. Not really."
Actually, I was in the middle of enjoying a nice walk in probably the safest urban area I have ever ventured into. I really did call my brother and tell him that just to mess with him, but in reality the weather was mid-60's, partly cloudy, low humidity, and it looked like this:
Yes, that's a giant stone toad in the water and a re-creation of the Acropolis in the background because, instead of an urban wasteland filled with thugs and hooligans, my brother and his wife live in the freaking Shire. The only drive-bys in their neighborhood would have to be done by Hobbits, who would just throw turnips at their windows and mailbox. I mean, seriously, there was a bust of Henrik Ibsen.
Anyway, now that we're in reality, I enjoyed walking around Como Park so much, I lost track of time and almost forgot we still had half-of-a-truck to unload (do hyphens go there? Dangit, hyphens, you are the unruly gang-members of grammar!). There was a zoo and mini-golf and fishing and a children's amusement park and pavillions and a conservatory and lots of smiling faces and a butterfly garden geared toward Monarchs:
Sidenote: my son loves this butterfly-colors video on Youtube, but he pronounces "Butterfly" as "Buffy," and is constantly saying "Watch Buffy! Watch Buffy!" This is how Joss Whedon attempts to manipulate the minds of our youth. Sidenote ends.
We finished unpacking in no time, took a nap, awoke with ravenous hunger. My brother researched and found a place we had to visit: The Nook. Holy cow, go to The Nook!
We got there expecting a long wait. While there was a long line, the wait really wasn't that bad. I mean, it wasn't like the wait at Red Lobster or anything, and Red Lobster tastes like Uncle Eddie's toupee deep-fried in Uncle Eddie's urine. The Nook tastes delicious--the food served there, I mean, not the edifice.
Where's Waldo, brother and sister-in-law version.
The Nook is famous for its stuffed-burgers. In fact, Guy Fieri (phonetically Guy Fi-a-zeli-hari-geli) took his show, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, there, and here is a video of it. Still missing out on Steak 'n Shake, and unsatisfied by my Thickburger, I scoured the menu for something to give me fulfillment.
If a restaurant has a special, limited-item, I have to get it, because I have a Pavlovian response to the word "limited," except instead of drooling, I open my wallet. Ironically, when I heard about the limited-edition item at the Nook, I drooled. The special for the month was a burger with a pattie composed of 50 percent ground beef and 50 percent chorizo sausage, stuffed with pepper-jack cheese. Like 30 percent of it was cheese? How would that work mathematically? And why does mathematically have an "e?" Too bad I didn't take a picture of
ooh, gotcha! There it is in all it's blurry, disposable camera glory, for only the disposable camera is worthy to take Nicsperiment Travelogue photos...except for the Germany one that was all digital, but anyway...
That burger was wickedly delicious, and obviously the hand-cut fries were, as well. Also obvious...the need for dessert. The Nook is also known for its milkshakes, but not in my wildest dreams would I have guessed at what I was about to consume.
That's right...actually, I'm not sure why I'm starting off this sentence with "that's right." Obviously this is a one-sided conversation, and only I am speaking, but anyway.
There was a Guinness milkshake. I drank all of it. It tasted like something that should not be, but is, and is glorious, glorious, glorious.
Then we went home, still exhausted, especially me from all the fighting and street-surviving, and passed out.


Jessica said...

Oh my gosh! I told Neal to tell you in the email, but he forgot. We were at TGI Friday's after we left Ikea on Sunday, and they had a Guinness milkshake on the menu. We immediately thought of you.

I laughed out loud at the freaking Shire part. If you think THAT was the Shire, you need to visit the North Shore and Duluth. We don't have busts of Ibsen, but we do have an entire statue of Leif Ericson. And a park named after him. With a rose garden. Oh, and movies. (I call that space where the movie screen is the Rapunzel stage, except I can't look through the windows since they are so tall, so I make Neal go up there and we do the whole scenario backwards. Kind of like, "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, throw up your hair!" [except that sounds really gross, and we generally just say the Rapunzel part without the hair throwing].)

If you ever get up here, we'll take you to the place of the pepper cheese burger. It's a deep-fried cheeseburger. Seriously. Google it, and the recipe from UMD will be the first thing you see.

Neal said...

Mmmm. Pepper cheeseburger. So good, even if it puts back your life expectancy a year or so with each burger.

You made me want to revisit Como Park again, Nicholas. Haven't been there in a long time. It really is a nice area. Sorry you had such a bad demonstration from your brother's neighbor... I can't imagine talking like that to people you just met, even if there are rough areas to any city (or Twin Cities, in this case... the one time I've been mugged was in one of the nicer park areas of Minneapolis... when I was in 4th grade, though).

Nicholas said...

Jess, I've never been to TGI Friday's either. There are 17 Applebee's in Baton Rouge but no TGI. I may be exaggerating on the quantity of Applebee's. Also, I'm glad y'all got to go to Ikea.
Leif Ericson statue! How big is it? Yes, I must visit Duluth.
Also, pepper cheeseburger...NEED IT.
Neal, you got mugged when you were in the 4th grade? How old was your assailant? What was his mode of intimidation? A weapon or pure brute adult-force? I need more info on this incident!

Jessica said...

Dude, Neal took a punch when he was mugged!

Also, Leif is fairly large:

AND! The King and Queen of Norway are going to be visiting here in mid-October. Isn't this town getting better and better?

Ikea makes me tired. It's so large and...concrete. (My feet kill me after we have visited there.) We got a nice solid pine buffet for our dining area, though, so it was worth it.

Neal said...

Nicholas, me, my older brother, and a friend of his went biking up to the downtown area and met my mother and younger brother there for a picnic in a park area (it was supposed to be a fun "adult" expedition before we moved).

It's a safe trip to make, too. I've heard of pickpockets and such during the day in the area we went through, but that's it.

We made the trip down just fine, but on the way back, we stopped in a park area by a lake to get a drink of water from a fountain. Three tough looking guys (probably in high school, but we were in fourth and sixth grades, so they were a good deal bigger than us). They made fun of some old guy that was walking by, but we didn't ride off for some reason.

The younger one of them (he might have been in late junior high, since he was smaller than the other two) came up to me and asked if he could "borrow" my bike and tried to pull it away from me. Not being amenable to that idea, I held on to my bike and said no.

His neat reply to that was to punch my face once, to which I responded by holding on to my bike with one hand and pushed up my glasses with the other, as they had slipped down my nose after the punch. That done, I went back to holding my bike with both hands.

He didn't seem to know what to make of that, so he walked off with his friends. Still not sure why, other than that bullies do not like facing resistance of any sort.

We decided we didn't want to hang around there after they went out of sight, so we started biking off again. Luckily for us, they had decided they now wanted to ambush us (apparently to save face from last time). One of them stuffed his foot in my brother's bike wheel, so he went tumbling. I was far enough back that I managed to turn around and bike the other way, even though they ran at me as well (still can't remember why my brother's friend did not lose his bike).

This whole time, there were NO people around, whatsoever. After this whole sequence was over, a ton of people started coming around the bend of the lake, separate groups of walkers, bikers, etc. (like you see all the time in this area).

For some reason, I was not freaked out when I was punched. I was not very together after the second incident, however. We made it to a concession area and called my mom. She picked me up, and my brother rode my bike home with his friend... they weren't as rattled as I was.

Other than having something stolen from my car, that's been my main brush with crime. It's been a harrowing, crime-filled life, that's for sure.

Nicholas said...

Jess, I just looked at that statue. I'm coming to Duluth. Also, if it's good enough for the King and Queen of Norway...
Neal, that story is actually pretty scary. Did your brother ever get his bike back? Did you guys call the cops?

The Daily Day said...

Nicholas, I suppose I should have mentioned that the police were called in and we had a cop show up at our front door to report the incident. He was with the park police and had one of those three-wheeled cart/car things, too. I found that kind of fun as a kid.

They never did find the bike or the kids, that we know of. Probably one of those small crimes that fall through the cracks. Speaking of which, I suppose we did have some bikes stolen at one point at that house, but that's not really a direct brush with crime, heh.

And I honestly do see it as kind of amusing right now. Sure, it's no fun to be punched and all, but the guy was just so thrown by me simply pushing my glasses back up and not doing anything else (or giving in) that it's hard for me not to smile about it, now that I am well out of the situation.

And yes, Duluth rocks. I think the Twin Cities are spectacular and pretty, as far as urban areas go, but I find Duluth to be much better (even if it doesn't have quite so many jobs, usually has rougher roads, etc.).

Neal said...

Ummm, that comment above is me. Not sure who or what the Daily Day is, or why it put that name there.