Archive for May, 2012

h1

MY YARD: A COLLECTION OF PARKS

May 31, 2012

Yesterday, as I walked the three blocks toward the Hennepin County Library to a seminar by MPRB, DID and the Downtown Council entitled “What’s Up with the Downtown Parks”, I realized I LIVE in a downtown park.  Fortunately, I had planned some extra time at the library to check out a couple books, because I started taking pictures-40 of them before I returned home!

Just outside my door, I enter the pedestrian /bike only portion of 2nd Street and walk under a canopy of trees that stretches from Marquette to Hennepin Avenue.  On either side, I am surrounded by well-kept wrought iron fences – which reveal the grand “backyard” of the Towers Condominium on one side, and their tennis courts on the other.   

At the other end, I emerge from the trees into the small Gateway Park –it’s dancing fountain  awakened from its winter sleep, and ready for its light show when the sun goes down.  Across the street, is a little-known and well-hidden great park at the Federal Reserve that connects to the Central Riverfront, but no time for that today. To the left, I pass the Nice Ride Station and head up the steps that lead me through the ING portico and down again to Nicollet Avenue. 

Across the street, is the Cancer Survivor Park. Of course, I pass it often, but have never explored it, so with time to spare, I walked through the grounds.  WOW!  I sat a few minutes on a bench tucked among the dense white birch trees, and watched the guys tossing footballs on the groomed lawn, then returned to the sidewalk along Nicollet to travel between the waterfall and the MPRB boulevard parks filled with poetry that reflected Nicollet Ave memories and dreams for the future-written by poets 3  to over 65 years old.  Yes, I have often walked by; but no, I have never taken the time to read the inspiring messages before yesterday. 

I was so engrossed, I almost missed the eyesore parking lot /bus terminal just north of the library building.  Perhaps because I know it is being considered as a site for the new expanded GATEWAY, and is part of my own Plan-it Hennepin vision, it no longer bothers me quite so much….instead when I look at it, I see my dream of an inter-cultural green gathering place that welcomes  residents, business, visitors and new immigrant populations. 

So with that, I walked into the Library, dropped off a couple books I just finished and then headed upstairs to hear about the greening of downtown Minneapolis and the planned updates and enhancements to Nicollet Mall, Loring Park, and other downtown parks along the way, as well as the status of the WaterWorks Park that will close the West River Road gap on the Central River Front.

Yes, as citizens of Mpls, we should be ashamed of the brown donut hole of downtown that is seen in aerial views of the city-surrounded by the green of a world-class park system focused on the lakes.  And for me personally, after rediscovering the Central River Front 25 years ago, it was encouraging to hear that the city has grown to understand that indeed, “ a RIVER runs through us”.

Returning home after the meeting, I came down Marquette between the towering skyscrapers, but even then, I detoured through the well-kept  grounds of 100 Washington Avenue that borders on my own “yard” at the Churchill. 

As I walked, I realized I had a pretty impressive FRONT YARD, but goodness, think of my BACKYARD!  I border on a 72-mile long National Park – the Mississippi River!

The river has been throwing a delayed “spring tantrum” this week.  The locks have even been closed to all traffic because of the turbulence. With little snow melt in April, we didn’t get quite the show we usually do, but this week, with all the May rain, it has been spectacular! Instead of budding trees and brown grass of past April shows, this year, the scene of the rough, constantly rolling river carpeted with whitecaps is framed by fully-leafed trees and a blanket of green on the ground.   No April walkers wrapped in coats and scarves shiver on the Stone Arch Bridge; instead smiling folks- occasionally feeling the cloud of spray hovering over the raging waters below-are enjoying the Power of the Falls! 

And the best-kept secret of the Central Riverfront and its Heritage Trail –the falls on the East Channel, peaking out among the greenery at the down river side of the Power Plant- is just amazing! In fact, I think it warrants my occasional use of the lower trail through Pillsbury Park to get a closer view– maybe an early morning walk tomorrow.

How fortunate I am to live where I do!

(The picture below is the “gentle” spillway, north of the Third Avenue Bridge-incredible!)

Image

h1

FOOD SHELVES DIVERSIFY

May 30, 2012

During the week long Landry residency last month, we spent a lot of time discussing what makes a world-class city…including the fact that immigration is trending away from our traditional European roots to populations migrating from Africa, Asia, India; thus creating the need for an intercultural perspective on our urban lives going forward.

So I welcomed the STRIB article regarding issues of meeting the needs of immigrants and elderly residents through the Emergency Foodshelf Network Initiative.  The recognition of the problem and the availability of grants to assist in meeting the needs of non-whites is encouraging and should be applauded. 

Because, as we must admit if we think about it a minute…the “American” cuisine that sustains us all would  be far different today if we had not over the last 200 years welcomed  and integrated the foods of newly arriving immigrants into our daily sustenance.  The one meal a day, in late morning, consisting of boiled or roasted meat/fish,  seeds, nuts , and berries  with a bit of cactus, cattail, corn, or sweet potato  hardly represents most of the menus of today’s Americans – all influenced and altered by the foods of arriving immigrants.

Yes, using dollars to fund the need that is not being met by food drives should be applauded; we are making a step in the right direction to recognize and accommodate the needs of many of the users of emergency food shelves.  And yet something disturbed me about the article…what was I missing? 

So I re-read it and there it was…the “can of cream of mushroom soup”… and it all came flooding back to me…the lessons I learned in those first days of TASTE OF THE NATION in the Twin Cities – those visits to Second Harvest that demonstrate so well why we need to switch our thinking from a “Food Drive” to perhaps a “healthy, eco-friendly, sustainable Feeding Drive” representative of the changes in our world over the last twenty years.

At Second Harvest, it is easy to see the COST of taking that can of soup or peas out of pantry and putting it in box or barrel at your local church or bank or store…Do we stop to think that the can of mushroom soup we most likely bought for 10 for $10 at our favorite grocery store now has to transported via truck to a food bank, received, sorted, inventoried, stocked, and then re-transported out to the food shelf for distribution? 

Or have we thought about the fact that the Second Harvest buying power when purchasing wholesale and in bulk is much more cost-effective way to provide the necessary sustenance?  Most likely, they can buy that can of soup less expensively than you can donate it to them!

Or, do we realize the items we contribute – mostly convenience goods we use to supplement our fresh fruits and vegetables and meat, dairy and eggs- do not constitute a healthy welcome, and may even teach some very bad habits?  Are we unintentionally contributing to the growth of the Unhealthy population of America?

These are serious issues and the education of how we- as citizens- can help, needs to get back to how we can help both cost-effectively and in a healthy manner!  So I guess in retrospect, I am glad I added an unopened box of barley and some whole-grain penne to my can of mushroom soup in the blue plastic bag left for our postman’s food drive a couple weeks ago.  Not good, but at least a step in the right direction and I am hopeful I can do better next time with a CHECK!

Meanwhile, those sponsoring food drives also need to RETHINK the process.  At a minimum, a mention of the type of foods sought and perhaps a website address for monetary donations would focus in better on the needs.

 

h1

FOOD SHELVES DIVERSIFY

May 30, 2012

 

During the week long Landry residency last month, we spent a lot of time discussing what makes a world-class city…including the fact that immigration is trending away from our traditional European roots to populations migrating from Africa, Asia, India; thus creating the need for an intercultural perspective on our urban lives going forward.

 

So I welcomed the STRIB article regarding issues of meeting the needs of immigrants and elderly residents through the Emergency Foodshelf Network Initiative.  The recognition of the problem and the availability of grants to assist in meeting the needs of non-whites is encouraging and should be applauded. 

 

Because, as we must admit if we think about it a minute…the “American” cuisine that sustains us all would  be far different today if we had not over the last 200 years welcomed  and integrated the foods of newly arriving immigrants into our daily sustenance.  The one meal a day, in late morning, consisting of boiled or roasted meat/fish,  seeds, nuts , and berries  with a bit of cactus, cattail, corn, or sweet potato  hardly represents most of the menus of today’s Americans – all influenced and altered by the foods of arriving immigrants.

 

Yes, using dollars to fund the need that is not being met by food drives should be applauded; we are making a step in the right direction to recognize and accommodate the needs of many of the users of emergency food shelves.  And yet something disturbed me about the article…what was I missing? 

 

So I re-read it and there it was…the “can of cream of mushroom soup”… and it all came flooding back to me…the lessons I learned in those first days of TASTE OF THE NATION in the Twin Cities – those visits to Second Harvest that demonstrate so well why we need to switch our thinking from a “Food Drive” to perhaps a “healthy, eco-friendly, sustainable Feeding Drive” representative of the changes in our world over the last twenty years.

 

At Second Harvest, it is easy to see the COST of taking that can of soup or peas out of pantry and putting it in box or barrel at your local church or bank or store…Do we stop to think that the can of mushroom soup we most likely bought for 10 for $10 at our favorite grocery store now has to transported via truck to a food bank, received, sorted, inventoried, stocked, and then re-transported out to the food shelf for distribution? 

 

Or have we thought about the fact that the Second Harvest buying power when purchasing wholesale and in bulk is much more cost-effective way to provide the necessary sustenance?  Most likely, they can buy that can of soup less expensively than you can donate it to them!

 

Or, do we realize the items we contribute – mostly convenience goods we use to supplement our fresh fruits and vegetables and meat, dairy and eggs- do not constitute a healthy welcome, and may even teach some very bad habits?  Are we unintentionally contributing to the growth of the Unhealthy population of America?

 

These are serious issues and the education of how we- as citizens- can help, needs to get back to how we can help both cost-effectively and in a healthy manner!  So I guess in retrospect, I am glad I added an unopened box of barley and some whole-grain penne to my can of mushroom soup in the blue plastic bag left for our postman’s food drive a couple weeks ago.  Not good, but at least a step in the right direction and I am hopeful I can do better next time with a CHECK!

 

Meanwhile, those sponsoring food drives also need to RETHINK the process.  At a minimum, a mention of the type of foods sought and perhaps a website address for monetary donations would focus in better on the needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

h1

THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY

May 29, 2012

 

This past weekend marks the 10th anniversary of that split second decision I made that changed my life.

 

 It seems so long ago that I grabbed that vellum and pencil and headed down from my office in the Pinnacle to East Bridge so I could drop all the electrical outlets into the site plan I had just drafted. Then, just one more spot to check; and despite knowing I was teetering on the edge of the brick, I took a step backward to get a better view of that wall behind the waterfall.  And as they say, the rest is history.

 

Or at least I wish it were history!  Those first years were awful, of course, with pain pills and walkers and lots of physical therapy…from traditional  to  Pool Therapy with pain worsening, not improving.  Then, to be saved by the miracle worker neurologist that finally diagnosed the injury correctly – 12 months after the accident.  After pain-blockers and a delay of three months for an opening with the therapist that specialized in my injury; and most of all, no income and the horrendous bills  (which meant tapping into a significantly deflated 401K due to a recession caused by 9-11), we finally started to see some improvement , and I “graduated” from therapy and was on my own 30 months after the fall.   

 

Early on, I kept thinking how lucky I was I could walk at all…but as I emptied the 401K and then counted on friends and family to support me with loans, it became harder and harder to look at the future with any optimism. 

 

But somehow, I made up my mind I could conquer this; a reunion with a friend from my early incentive house days led to a little income trickling in as I worked for her part time and daily wondered how I was ever going to recover.  But finally, a full time job in late 2006; a return to full time Creative Events in 2009, and my two best years financially in 2010 and 2011…when finally, I could pay back the last of the doctor bills and loans, get rid of my 16 year old Jeep, and say with confidence….yes, I have some pain; yes, I have some limitations on what I can do physically, but I won the battle.

 

So I returned to the city and the river, filled with hopes that I had, indeed, persevered and conquered the monster.

 

Maybe that is why these last seven months have been so difficult.  New symptoms have appeared based on that old injury; the return to physical therapy for three months, pain, the lack of work, and with no 401K to fall back on, the constant worry about money and how am I going to pay for all this…one more time.  It feels like the matching bookend to an awful decade!

 

But, determined to keep going, I have pushed to get back to my daily walks around the river…which may have triggered my mini-memorial day weekend meltdown. 

 

 A few weeks ago,  I was headed over to Surdyk’s  to pick up some wine to share with an old friend visiting from Hawaii, and for some reason, as I came off the Hennepin Bridge, I made a detour….and walked through East Bridge.  As I reached the waterfall, I started to feel sick and my legs began to shake.  Good heavens, why did I not leave well-enough alone!  Since then, I keep thinking about the fall, and the hardship of the recovery, and what a bad position I am in because of it once again…both physically and financially.

 

By this anniversary weekend, I had sunk deep into the doldrums.   I made it through Saturday all right because I had plans all day with a good friend.  But, despite the beautiful days Sunday and  Monday  and tentative plans to head to Rochester, visit the cemetery , then see my siblings, I have not budged from my perch up here on the 14th floor.  Instead of celebrating the triumph, I am sad…and so afraid I am headed into a repeat of those first awful years.

 

What should be a celebratory time, has become a worrisome time for me…and I am not sure I can muster the determination to fight it off one more time.

 

So here’s hoping that with the anniversary now behind me, so too will the pain and the worry disappear, and I can start to move forward…one more time…with my life.  After all, I have too many unread books and too many things left on my “to-do” list to give up now.

 

h1

HOMEOWNERSHOP’S NEW LEASE ON LIFE

May 27, 2012

I was amazed to see the headlines in paper this morning about the shift to home-owning.  Although the argument made has good validity in terms of low interest rates creating a “window of financial opportunity” at the current time, it seems it would be in the public interest to include a few more points of comparison that would help them make a decision. 

The article mentioned, but did not factor in, costs of heating and air conditioning….which are included in rent; did not factor in association fees…which are included in most townhome and condominium developments and often vary from year to year; did not include “Special Assessments”  or updates needed to a standard home; did not include lawn and garden costs and maintenance; and did not include winter snow removal. 

It missed the fact that right now with significant discussion about the state of our education system….if you buy a home near what is today considered an excellent school system based on 20th century guidelines, will it still be an excellent system when your kids are in school?  Hopefully, by then, schools will have started educating for life in the 21st century, but what if your school has not?

And what about buying in vicinity of your place of work?   Yes the article mentioned mobility, but I expect most read that in terms of where you work and will you be transferred out-state-the definition of mobility issues in terms of home-buying opportunities for the last 50 years.  It missed  the fact that the trend is NOT to stay with an organization for your career lifetime; it missed  the fact that for two-income families, that normally does not mean proximity for both working adults.  So with the existing infrastructure crumbling around us, the hesitancy to invest dollars in repairs, or in mass transit, should you add transportation issues to the decision equation?  Not to mention, of course that mobility needs are emerging with a very different definition as we enter the changing world ahead of us.   Close to work; close to airports; close to schools, availability of sidewalks and neighborhood stores and centers to create a sense of place and connect you to your community, and the impossible (negative impact on community as well as prohibitive costs)  task of creating new freeways to provide quick access to wherever one wants to go.

Equally significant is the shrinking availability of time to maintain a home…which only continues to increase cost or limit one to becoming a two-dimensional person:  worker and home-owner.

And as important, it did not include the fact that rents are rising according to “what the market will bear” right now because minimal new apartment building has been done for years and years…so apartments are SCARCE…and can support rising rates.

 In other words, it painted a bright picture without all the facts.  It reminded me of the beginning days of the housing boom and the financial institution’s role in the bust that came just four short years ago. 

Again, I am not against home-ownership.  I owned a home for twelve years and during that time, as I continued to develop as a person and my interests expanded, it became an option that was limiting to me.  I chose to sell that home 16 years ago, and only THIS YEAR, will my rental costs approach equaling the costs of owning a home.  That is food for thought, I think….and worth  sharing with the world that  the decision to buy or rent involves MUCH more that current interest rates vs. current rental rates.  It involves assessing who you are and what place you hope to hold in the world that is before us – not the world of our parents that has passed.

 

h1

GOOD NEWS ON SOUTHDALE RENOVATIONS

May 25, 2012

I was so glad to hear about the upgrade of Southdale now in progress….but a bit concerned, at the same time, to hear the goal is to be competitive with the Mall of America.  But before jumping to conclusions, I reminded myself I did not know in what categories, Southdale is looking to compete.  I can always hope it is simply to update the look, add more shopping options, improve the food and beverage a bit, and become once again the star of the DALES as it once was.

Like many metro residents in my circle of acquaintances, I visited  the MOA for two reasons only….Nordstrom’s and Bloomingdales.  I often contemplated DRIVING between the two anchors so I could be spared the awful experience of actually being INSIDE the place.  But since the MOA driving experience is also a nightmare, it did not seem a good option to move the car after I parked once – until I could escape the area entirely.  

Yes,  I know there are supporters, but MOA to me conjures up a cheap tourist attraction/theme park filled with out-of-state rude tourists and a lot of undressed metro kids.  Yes, there are a lot of stores, but most of  them offer nothing one wants or needs.  No one understands the concept of public courtesy…or the simple “Keep to the Right” rule, and if you meet the hordes as you are trying to traverse, you often are pushed to the side rail and have to wait for the self-important or self-centered to pass.  I will refrain from comments about how they are (un)-dressed; chalking that one up to a “generational” difference.  And I won’t even get into the noise factor, or parking issues created by self –centered drivers that have no concern for holding up car after car behind them, while they wait to see where a departing shopper is headed; then follow them and hold up MORE CARS, as the poor driver rushes to stow packages and kids and stroller so they can vacate their spot before the driver starts screaming profanities.

So now that Bloomingdale’s closed, I have not been back…Even the big Nordstrom’s half-price sale that started this week cannot draw me into that place.  Although I generally use that sale as the one time I shop to update my wardrobe, I am passing this year…the thought of the bad experience that awaits me just in driving rudeness is too much to bear….and I am sure I can convert to an on-line customer for most of my needs!

You may chalk it up to my age, I guess, but one of the many good things about returning to the riverfront to live, is that I have easy access to Rosedale.  (No, the light rail to MOA cannot overcome the bad experience once I get into the complex)

So, until I learn more about what’s in store for Southdale, and  what categories it competes with MOA, I will limit my visits there to parking near the entrance to Macy’s  or Herberger’s – depending on the errand, and  wait and see what develops.  Nonetheless, the plans for the physical renovation, the addition of new stores, and the creation of additional jobs are welcome news.

 

h1

THE THIRD INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

May 24, 2012

 Every day, our politicians and press fill our newspapers, radios and TVs with short silly sound bites about the Economy and Job Creation….All we hear is the way to lowering unemployment is through creating more manufacturing jobs and putting people back to work in factories….and the sad story of those long-unemployed that have given up looking.  Sometimes those stories focus on the over 50; sometimes they focus on the 20-30 year olds that can’t find that first job.

And certainly, these are issues, and certainly business and government ALIKE, need to work together to improve the situation.  Repairing our crumbling infrastructure (yes, that means spend money to FUND these projects) make the most sense to me – it helps provide jobs and income for both ends of spectrum  of the unemployed.

But the argument never seems to focus on real questions.  Of those recent graduates, what have they been trained to do?  Can they not get jobs in their field, or at their salary expectations?  Have they been willing to look at other fields and lower their salary expectations? Are those that cannot get jobs holding degrees based on 20th century skills?  Are there options available in other areas? Are they being enabled by parents who in trying to help,  allow them to move home, and not contribute in some way?   Or, how many of those unemployed that have quit looking for work have quit because they have become entrepreneurs and are now self-employed?  Have we honestly looked at education and how our next generations are still being taught by a method developed to prepare them for the manufacturing world of the early 20th century?    I am not questioning the problems, nor the numbers, I am just questioning where we are putting the emphasis when we report it.

And I do so because as you have all heard me say over and over – the world has changed.  The paradigms of the 20th century have shifted.  I hear little discussion on this, nor what we as a people are trying to do about it…other than grieve for the “good old days” , blame the “other side” and promise to bring them back.

So  I was pleasantly surprised a while ago to see the STRIB report on the “Third Industrial Revolution”.  Yes, this is reality!

The STRIB briefly traced manufacturing history from the first “revolution” in late 18th century  in Britain and the mechanization of the textile industry; weavers cottages disappeared and the factory was born with the cotton mill.  The second phase is one we are most familiar with, when early in 20th century, Ford created the moving assembly line and mass production was born.

And now, what I have been referring to as the impact of technology and digital-everything, combined with customization has created a new environment, that we as a people all live in, use, and push for more of the same…and yet, cannot make the connection with what that means for jobs and education!

The article calls this the “Third Industrial Revolution”.  Technologies have emerged with new software, new materials, better robots, new processes and have created a changing definition of Web-based services.    We all know this; we see the impact in each of our lives…and we think it’s a better world for it…we talk about great strides made in our understanding of our environment, our universe and our minds , but no one stops and reflects on what changes occur in the transition – never to be resurrected again. 

 Although this is my passion and my frustration with our transitional world today, I was surprised by one item in the article…”Some carmakers already produce twice as many vehicles per employee as they didonly a decade or so ago”.  Think of that impact without the emotion.  Are we each buying twice as many cars as we did a decade ago?  How does that all reconcile with the expectation that when production goes up/costs go down…and how in the world do we expect that manufacturers will employ the same amount of workers they did even at the beginning of the 21st century-when it takes half as many to do the same job?!! 

 We are balancing on the precipice between two worlds – pushing for the changes and progress of the future, but seeing no connection to what that means in terms of changing needs that made up our 20th century world.    We want the new and we want it cheaper and faster but we still train our kids for a life in the old world; we pick our leaders on who can best argue how they will BRING BACK the old and none of its fits together for a promising future. 

We cling to old educational theories; when we need to think about what we know today regarding how people learn and what the world needs as expertise; then craft a new educational system that works for the challenges that lay before us.

We judge the existing President on what Truman and Eisenhower, Kennedy , Reagan would have done – all of whom lived, learned, and governed in a world very foreign to the one in which we live today; we consider an alternative to run our country whose business experience all dates back to a time when laptops, and notebooks, I-pods and I-pads were not even words in our vocabulary – let alone what they mean and the changes that they have brought to the very “business world” he boasts about.   The list goes on and on.

In all arenas, we continue to give credence to a hierarchical approach that served tribes and families and even businesses well in the old days, but has been replaced.  To quote the title of a book resting on the corner of my desk, “Collaborate or Perish”.  Big Blue had to face that reality and the strides they have made in RE THINKING their world in a collaborative environment put most other major corporations to shame.

And although I know thought-leaders through-out the centuries have all experienced similar struggles as they toiled to bring about change, the difference is that the WORLD is changing at an exponential pace around us.  We do not have time to let the influencers in my generation die off; we need to get with the program.   While we doddle along patting ourselves on the back for what we accomplished in World War II, the rest of the world is moving forward – and soon will be moving ahead without us.  Let’s stop re-fighting old battles of the 1950s and 1960s and focus on how we as the US can contribute and influence the world of the future!

Let’s embrace the Third Industrial Revolution and contribute to it, not try to deny and destroy it!