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Wednesday, April 09, 2003  

E is for Eh

So, back in the day, there was this part of Downtown Minneapolis called Block E. I never got to know it in its old incarnation; it was leveled before I started spending any significant time downtown. But apparently it was quite the wretched hive of scum and villainy. It was the place where you could find more iniquities per square inch than anywhere else in the entire state, outside of the capitol building in St. Paul. Dive bars, hookers, adult bookstores, opium dens, crime, terrorism, ethnic cleansing, you name it, it was there. It was Travis Bickle’s Times Square, compressed into a single city block and carted twelve hundred miles to the west.

But like I said, it was leveled in the eighties. The whole block was converted to a parking lot, and those who looked upon its destruction were turned to pillars of salt.

Over the next decade-and-a-half or so, different redevelopment plans were thrown out and shot down. A car lot. A casino. A missile silo. A temporary outdoor concert venue (that one actually happened a bunch of times, once under Smashing Pumpkins). Some seemed destined to become reality, only to be shot down all the harder. In the meantime, the parking lot sat there, a giant slice of prime real estate just waiting for someone to come do something, anything with it so people on Hennepin Avenue wouldn’t have to look at the Target Center any more.

Finally, some developers and the city agreed on a plan that includes more family-friendly establishments, like a Hard Rock Cafe, a movie theater, and a huge video arcade. It’s Giuliani’s Times Square, compressed into a single city block and carted twelve hundred miles to the west.

After the David Sedaris thing the other night, the group of us agreed to head over to one of the new establishments at the clean, sparkly, sanitized Block E. Specifically, we went to the restaurant that is attached to the video arcade. It was the first time I’d ever been inside a permanent structure on Block E. Unless you count the bus shelter that used to be there, which, if you’ve ever been inside a bus “shelter” in Minneapolis in January, you won’t. They were checking IDs at the door. Okay, it’s an arcade, but it’s Saturday night and they’re selling alcohol. Go ahead and card me. I kind of wish you hadn’t stuck the adhesive part of my wristband to my arm hair, but people are starving in Africa, after all.

Then, from our table, we witnessed a dramatic scene in which a young man in an advanced stage of inebriation was either dragging his equally inebriated girlfriend out the door with an arm wrapped around her naked midriff like a vaudeville hook, or using the arm to try to steady her as she struggled forth on the violently pitching deck of her personal space, or using the girlfriend as a battering ram to open the door. Our group, as well as the dozen-odd people waiting in line to get into the place, watched through the glass walls of the vestibule, ready to intervene if their animated discussion escalated past the verbal. After a minute or two, they seemed to reach a détente, and regained entry—on the condition they both stopped drinking.

Later, a bartender/host announced a tattoo contest. Let me explain something: this place is so huge that the host appears on closed-circuit video monitors posted throughout the two sprawling floors of the “arcade.” It’s like watching MTV Spring Break coverage but you know the VJ is less then a hundred yards away, even if you can’t see him. Anyway, the contestants came up to show their tats to the camera. But one female hopeful was only able to show hers to the people directly in front of her. However, the camera did capture the view from the back as she dropped her pants.

Drunken displays and bare asses. It’s like Block E never left.

Shortly thereafter, however, we did.

posted by M. Giant 3:21 PM 0 comments


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