Room at the Bottom

When Eisenhower-era civic leaders drunk on urban renewal laid waste to the Gateway district, they forever altered the topography of this town's hard-luck hotels and shot-and-a-beer saloons.

By the end of the 1950s, a crushing number of social workers, Christians, urban planners, bureaucrats, newspaper writers, and photographers had made the Minneapolis Gateway an object of investigation. Known as Skid Row, it was a neighborhood of bars, flophouses, and weekly-rate hotels stretching up Washington Avenue from Hennepin toward the Milwaukee Road train station. But after 1958, there was nothing left to document.

Some of the photographs taken in the old Skid Row are currently on display as a part of Urban Remains: The Minneapolis Gateway Photographs of Jerome Liebling and Robert Wilcox, on exhibit at the University of Minnesota's Weisman Art Museum through June 7.

One of Liebling's pictures depicts the Metropolitan Building, which stood on the corner of Third Street and Second Avenue in the heart of the Gateway. In 1888 when it was built, the Metropolitan was considered a symbol of the city's bright future. Thirteen stories tall, it featured an open atrium with glass-floored hallways.

Liebling captures a different aspect of the building whose razing would put a symbolic end to the Gateway's heyday: One of his photos is a close-up of a shattered window framed by cracked stone, broken venetian blinds open to the breeze. The image appears to be a moment of suspended violence. It looks like a blank crime scene, the setting for some riot or break-in.

In fact, it's a portrait of urban renewal. In 1961, the Metropolitan fell before the relentless march of progress, a victim of prevailing theories about slum clearance. In Lost Twin Cities, Larry Millett called its demolition "perhaps the most inexcusable act of civic vandalism in the history of Minneapolis." But the Metropolitan was only the most memorable loss in the Gateway. Sixty-two taverns, 39 factories, 48 wholesale distributors, 24 pawn shops, 43 cafes, 11 warehouses, nine clothing stores, 10 furniture stores, 15 barber shops and two hardware stores were also demolished. More than 200 buildings in all.

Literally every brick and stone of the old Gateway district was knocked down between 1958 and 1963, every tavern, factory, flophouse, and hotel leveled. Along the way, the entire shape of downtown Minneapolis was permanently altered. Today Washington Avenue is a broad street that feeds cars into downtown Minneapolis. The few pedestrians who use it are dwarfed by modern buildings, tower blocks, a parking ramp, the high-security granite base of the old Federal Reserve offices.

Buildings were not the only casualties. The Gateway urban-renewal project displaced nearly 5,000 residents. Most of them were single men, many of them derelicts. The Liebling and Wilcox photographs document this story, too. In one picture, four men stand in front of the Valhalla, a cafe downstairs from a flophouse. One of them, in shirt sleeves, raises his hands above his head in a gesture that might be one of surrender except for the broad grin he wears. Another stands with his back to the camera. The map of wrinkles on the nape of his neck suggests a life lived under the toughening sun.

When the city tore down the Gateway, some of the single men and pensioners who lived there moved on to other skid rows in other cities. Some found homes elsewhere in the Twin Cities, a few in places where the life of easy camaraderie captured in Liebling and Wilcox's photographs still exists. A handful of boardinghouses and weekly-rental hotels still cradles a fraternity of single men, working men, fragile old bachelors, and drunkards.

One of these establishments, the Schooner Hotel and Bar, is anchored on the far eastern shore of Lake Street. "It's not the Taj Mahal," says Dan McLeod, her owner. "It is what it is." McLeod wears his hair swept back into a ponytail and his salt-and-pepper beard trimmed neatly. He has the barkeeper's habit of looking past you when he talks, keeping an eye on the door and the shifting crowd coming in and out of it.

"Rooming houses like this," he says, "there's not that many of them anymore. They've closed them all up. They provide living quarters for people who can't afford to move into an apartment. Here it's $50 a week, $50 deposit. Just because it's a sleeping room it's not a fleabag. I probably get 200 calls a month. And I don't have a lot of turnover."

The Schooner has its own history of success and failure, its own rise and fall. It sits at the hub of what used to be a major industrial center, complete with a foundry, a railroad spur, and a boxcar factory, all within walking distance. These industries are all gone now, replaced with a massive shopping complex, a Rainbow supermarket and a Cub Foods, a Target. But places like the Schooner are also the last manifestation of the culture of America's industrial past, a culture largely invisible in Minneapolis since the dismantling of the Gateway. The six stories that follow put words to the Liebling and Wilcox photographs. Snapshots of memory, each offers a glimpse of the world on Skid Row the photographers tried to document, and of what became of that world down to the present time.

John Brucciani, 81, patrolled the Gateway district before his 1970 retirement from the Minneapolis Police Department.

I rode the traffic car. The traffic division had two cars in the loop. Traffic One and Traffic 12. I rode Traffic One for a number of years. That was right in the loop all the time, although you took calls any place they sent you.

Once we got a call to check for an ambulance at a flophouse. In this place they had rooms, but they were run-down. They weren't the kind of room that you would want to stay in, or I would want to stay in. But anyway, we went in there and there was a man laying on the bed. He was ill. They didn't at the time know exactly what was wrong with him. He just didn't feel right. He got a little scared, I think.

I took one look at him and I said, "You know these people who let themselves go to this point and then expect us to come in there and handle them are crazy." He had body lice running all over him. He told us that he had put his long underwear on in October and this was the end of March, and he had not taken a bath or anything in that six-month period of time.

So I says to him, "You're sick and you want to go to the hospital?" He said, "Yes." I said, "OK. When the ambulance gets here they'll bring a cart up here. You're going to have to get off that bed and onto the cart." He had the strength to get off of that one and on to the other one and they took him down there.

I don't know if you've ever been in the old General Hospital, but they had a salt shaker, it's got holes in it, and there's DDT in there. They opened this man's clothes and they saw all these lice and they just pulled his underwear up and shook this in like they were shaking salt onto a roast. The DDT kills those bugs immediately. They were flopping over. Right around that cart that he was on was just a layer of dead bugs. Like I say, it was a different way of life.

They peeled his underwear off eventually and believe it or not the skin of his legs below his knees came off inside his underwear. Oh, it was terrible. And the smell--oh God.

He survived and went on his way afterward.

Another time there was a cutting by South of the Border. We weren't too far away so we went over there. South of the Border was a liquor establishment that was run by colored people and that's where the colored people predominantly played in that area. A guy came up from Chicago and he met one of the girls in South of the Border and they made a deal that he would pimp for her and get her business and by the same token he would get the money and then give her what he thought she should have. Then the second day he met a nicer-looking colored gal, so he made a proposition with her: "Hey I'll pimp for you but you gotta give me the money and then I'll disperse it."

Well, then the two girls found out that he had changed. The story I got, they had straightedge razors hidden in the fuse box in the basement at South of the Border. So when they found out that this was going on they went down and got those razors.

I wish you could have seen how they cut each other up. One nice-looking colored girl got cut right across both breasts. Half of the breast hung down and the other one was firm and up and in place. She said to me, "You keep me from going to jail and I'll make you the wealthiest man in the world." I said, "Well, I'm not exactly in the meat business." She was willing to talk to me when I walked in. They have no hesitance about exposing the body. She was laying in there and they put a sheet over her and she pulled the sheet right down, and I'm telling you she had a gorgeous body. But that razor cut went across both breasts and down her back in two places and she was really chopped up. And the other girl was likewise, she was chopped up pretty bad, and then they went after the guy the pimp, and cut him up too.

What's so funny about it, there was an older man, and he was known as "Tag-'em" Johnson. And he was riding with this guy that night and when he saw them with straightedge razors he ran back to the car and locked the doors. He called on the radio, "Send a lot of help they're chopping each other up! Send a lot of help they're chopping each other up!" He wouldn't open the doors 'til more squad cars came. Then he got out. I don't know what they charged them with. When they get through sewing them up, then they would call the wagon and the wagon would go and pick them up and take them to jail.

There was one guy, he'd dress as a female. He took balloons and filled them with lukewarm water, and put a nylon sock on it, and put a bra on and put these things inside there. He'd go around and start talking to these guys, "Hey you wanna have a good time? Come on." They'd start feeling around and they felt down there and, honest to God, I felt them afterward when they put them in the captain's office. I felt the things laying there. I just felt them, and they were so close to normal you'd never suspect anything.

Well, then these guys would get in the car. "Okay, yeah. Let's have a party. Where're we going?" "Have you got a car?" They'd start playing around. Well, these guys were older guys and half in the bag. This guy would punch them, and knock them out, and take their billfold. Then he'd get out of the car and look for the next one. This was the type of stuff that existed down there.

There were gambling places down there. There was some deals going, but that's something you didn't stick your nose into, because that was in buildings. Unless you got a call there, you had no reason to go around looking for trouble.

See what most people don't realize is that at that time, I was told, a mayor could make a million dollars a year if he let the city go a little bit. Gambling, prostitution--the kickbacks would be in that range. This is what the story was, but I can't tell you that this is a fact.

The beat men kind of resented us going in on their calls. It was an unwritten law down there that the beat cops wanted to take care of their own problems. It's their territory and they wanted to handle it. They didn't want you to monkey around with it. They'd say, "We'll take care of it, you can go ahead and go," I think because they were getting something from the businesses. I have no way of proving anything. It's just hearsay as far as I'm concerned. But I'm sure that those places, like on the holidays, or Christmas, I'm sure they gave them something. What, I don't know. I never got anything from them. I never looked for anything. I was one of the fortunate guys. I was reasonably well-off shortly after I got on the police department because I made some good investments. I never played hanky-panky, because I didn't want no part of the problems.

These are odd stories, I know. But one guy was telling me, Marty, he walked the beat down there. He stood on the corner. There were these guys would come up to the beat officer every day and give him a quarter. Whether they thought they were going to get a break somewhere down the line I don't know, but it was just ridiculous.

See, Skid Row was made up of broken families. Guys that lost everything, had a bundle and tried to extend it and then instead of extending it they lost it. And then they were down to nothing and they couldn't recoup. They just went downhill from then on. Same with the women. Both male and female were down there. They just seemed to have lost everything in life that you and I would know or would want. They didn't have that.

They lived from day to day. If somebody had a buck they'd buy a bottle of wine. They'd pass it around 'til it was gone and then they'd try to find another buck and buy another bottle of wine. A lot of drunks and prostitution. Of course, you didn't even need prostitution. The women were willing. It was that type of existence.

There were a lot of good people down there, too. I didn't have any trouble with them. But I didn't rub elbows with them very often, I tell you.

Jim Wiggins (above left) worked at the neighborhood's Senate Bar and Cafe in 1954.

I was a counter guy, and I cooked a little bit. It was kind of a depressing place to work because there were so many bums down there. I had a wife and a child, and when I'd get some food left over I'd take it home to feed the family. It came in handy, making that kind of money. I made 58 bucks a week. I started out at 50 bucks a week, and then he gave me eight bucks on the side for showing up. I was a steady employee and he didn't know how to take it.

It was a living. But that was about all it was.

Some of the problems we had was chasing the guys down the street to get their money. There was a Salvation Army right around the corner from us. We used to say, "Don't try to sneak out on us. You want something free, go around the corner and get something free." You could buy a meal for a buck back then. You could get a prime-rib sandwich for 70 cents with a boiled potato and some gravy. For five bucks they'd get a meal ticket. That would help them get through the month.

The big shot down there was Big Mike. He was kind of the Mafia kind of boss. Everybody kind of respected Big Mike. Another one was the Salvation Army guy named Jimmy. He would help the drunks a lot. He ate there all the time. He'd go on a toot himself and he would disappear for a while. The drunks always took care of him when he was off on a toot. We used to have another character who would take orders for shirts or whatever you wanted him to steal for you. He was very well dressed, with a big coat. I didn't know he was stealing them at first. I'd get Arrow shirts for a buck and a half.

There was people hanging around all the time at the Senate. There were some people who were really working but they lived down there because it was cheap. There was a lot of working guys, a lot of retired guys. It was like a small town. Same customers come in at the same time every day.

It really wasn't dangerous. I wasn't afraid to walk to my car in the back alley, and there didn't seem to be that much violence. There was a lot of drunkenness, and prostitution, and gambling. But I don't remember any shootings. There'd be guys fighting on the street about stupid things. Defending their so-called honor.

I left there, and went to work at Lee Overalls. There was an opening in the factory there. That was a big break for me.

Bob Jorvig was head of the Minneapolis Housing and Redevelopment Authority from 1956 to 1966, during the period when the Metropolitan was torn down.

It's hard to translate it from where you are today, and what kinds of things are being done in the urban-planning field. Back then, cities all over the country were looking at these really bad slums. Minneapolis and St. Paul never really had any terrible slums except in the Gateway and in a couple other places. A few places like Skid Row were so obvious. They were a real problem, a cancer to the city.

I don't remember a lot of opposition to the demolition. People really wanted to get rid of it. Even the Metropolitan building, which really was an architecturally unique building, and probably was worth saving. The people in the city at that time thought of Skid Row as a place that was full of crime, alcoholism, drunkenness--all that sort of thing. That it was really bad and had to be got rid of. Which was generally true.

But most of the guys that lived there are part of our history. They were guys who at that time were about my age, in their 70s someplace. They had worked for the railroads, pioneering, building the railroads. They had worked in the north, lumbering. And then they'd come into town in the winter when there wasn't work. Guys who had come over here as immigrants and never had a family even. That was their life. They weren't dangerous. They probably drank a lot all their lives. They were probably most of them alcoholics.

People had been trying to do something about Skid Row for years. About 1900, they built Gateway Park. There's a triangle there where Hennepin and Nicollet came together and they made a park out of that and they made a fountain and a little sculpture thing. That was an early attempt to do something to improve the area. Well, that just became a nice place for these people to hang out, so that didn't do anything.

Then there was a post office building that was right across from the Milwaukee Road depot--a one-story building. Well about 1912, somewhere in the early days, they got money to build that post office. That was going to be a big improvement in the heart of this area that was going to make a change. All of these projects just got swallowed up. You couldn't do anything.

So then when you talk about when the Gateway project happened in the late 1950s and 1960s, there was so much history. If you were the builder or the owner of a Northwestern National Life or something like that, and we say, "We're making this land available for a nice office site for you," they'd say, "Are you crazy?" They didn't have the confidence it would happen. So you really needed to deal on a wholesale basis. Even if there was an occasional building that was fairly good, if you didn't deal with the whole thing you couldn't get the confidence for people coming back in there.

Corporations were all moving their businesses out to the suburbs. Prudential had moved out to Theodore Wirth Parkway, and General Mills had moved out. Downtown was really threatened.

Skid Row was mostly made up of small three-story buildings. Many of them, the top floors were cages. And they would maybe have three rows of cages. They'd be about 6 feet wide, just enough to get a single bed, and a chest of drawers and a chair. So it would be about 8 feet long and 6 feet wide. The ceiling heights were higher than normal, maybe 10 feet. So you'd have a row of these cages going all along the building with an aisle in between. And then to get ventilation in they'd have chicken wire across the top. So they were private with four walls. At the end of the room there would be maybe one or two toilets for the whole place. They rented for about 50 cents a night. And if they were a little better than the others, 75. Over time it varied between 3,000 and 5,000 men that lived in those buildings.

When we started tearing down Skid Row, we didn't have any way to pay relocation payments. There wasn't any relocation assistance for single persons. There was some for the families. So we created some. I think we paid $5 or $15. It was some small amount. All they had was the clothes they had on and maybe a little bag. They didn't have anything to move.

We'd pay them the money, but we'd only pay it to them after they moved and came back and told us where they moved, because we were trying to keep track of what happened. And it was interesting after they moved out into a little different neighborhood, when they came back they were dressed different. They were spruced up a little bit. They accommodated to the area.

Our offices were in the Metropolitan. It was made of that pink sandstone and it was subject to weathering. It was soft stone that water would get into and then it would freeze and the stone would fall off onto the sidewalk. I remember when we were there you could walk along the sidewalk in the morning and find big chunks of stone. The interior was really neat. On the upper floors there was thick glass, probably about 3 inches thick and it was kind of a greenish color. You couldn't see through it but light would go through it, and then the top was like a greenhouse, so all the light came in there. All of the interior was wrought-iron patterns. The elevators were all wrought iron and they were open. So I imagine when it was first built and all that was new, it was a pretty exciting building.

But then when it came around to try to fix this up, and you went to the city, they'd say, "Well, we wouldn't allow this to be built today. If there were a fire in the building this open atrium is just like a chimney going right up. All wrought iron, if you get any heat at all that disintegrates faster than a wood building. You'd really be in trouble." So they said if you were going to redo this you had to enclose the elevators, and you had to enclose the columns so they're insulated. It became a tremendously costly thing. And then when you got done you would have destroyed the building, what made it so great.

When we got to the initial plan, we called the building "conditional acquisition," subject to some plans to see if we could rehabilitate it. We tried to get people interested in spending some money to rehabilitate it. It would have taken a lot of money to do it. What happened then is we started marketing the area. We had Knutson Co. as kind of an overall developer. Part of that was they didn't really trust the Housing and Redevelopment Authority to do what it said, so they wanted some private person who had control over the whole area. So Knutson planned three buildings in front of the post office, and they got Northern States Power, Northwest International Life, and IBM--those were four projects that were all committed at the same time. Sheraton Hotel was the other one. So that was a core package which really firmed up the end of Nicollet Avenue.

But before they would sign the contract, they wanted assurance that any of these old buildings still in the Gateway were going to be torn down so they weren't faced with the problem of further deterioration of the area. We had to either make a commitment to tear the Metropolitan down or postpone development. So we let a contract to tear it down and the bulldozers came out to start working on the building.

It was unfortunate that there wasn't some way to save it, but I don't think you can say it was an "inexcusable act of civic vandalism." That implies that it was just an outright unthoughtful act, which was not true. It wasn't an arbitrary act. It was something that was considered within the tools we had to work with.

The new buildings were modernist, contemporary architecture. People thought that was pretty great, and so did I. It really appealed to a lot of people and it sure appealed to me. It was forward-looking. Everybody was optimistic. It was a booming time.

I don't think I would have done it a lot different than we did it, except probably we would have some tools to preserve some of the buildings.

Now, the Sheraton Hotel, that was a disappointment, you know. The Sheraton went up in the Gateway, I suppose 1960. And it's already been torn down. The problem was that it wasn't big enough to be economic. But it was really a neat place for a long time. You could sit out there and eat lunch. They had a skating rink in the winter time. The IBM building--that was torn down, too.

I guess from my point of view every generation has a right to do something for their generation. And you don't necessarily have to preserve everything that went before you. Every generation has a different concept of what should be done in their time and place. At this time there was a need to do some dramatic things in the center city. And I think the Gateway project was one of them.

After prohibition was repealed, Bea Anderson's father managed the bar at the Schooner Hotel, where railroad and foundry workers could rent rooms by the week. Located on East Lake, the Schooner still operates today, although under different ownership.

Our father left the mine in the north because of the extreme working conditions up there. All his brothers and sisters were down here, so he came to join the family.

As far as the bar goes, the unique feature of the bar was that they made all their drink mixes from scratch. They were fresh. At that time Lake Street was a real popular place to be. Everybody would go up there for entertainment, up and down. Even in high school we still cruised Lake Street. It was really safe.

We never did much record-keeping of Mom and Dad's stories of the Schooner. It was for them a work farm. They had a lot of work to do. It was really a well-kept and clean place. I would go up there as a youngster in elementary school and be with Chrissy while she was cleaning the rooms.

We would clean the bar on Sundays. My parents were such cleanaholics--that Scandinavian thing. Every bottle off the back bar, every bottle got wiped, every bottle, every week. Every glass got rewashed on Sunday. The back bar got spit-shined. You just can't imagine.

My husband, when he was in college, they would take the chairs and they would pay him to actually scrape off gum and tar, and they would clean the rungs of the chairs. They really worked at keeping it clean.

I think some of the men must have stayed for a long, long time. There was that one old guy who had that painted-on mustache. He had lived there for a long time. The men couldn't keep their rooms locked, because we had to clean. And family lived up there, too. My aunt Annie lived up there. The owners lived up there until 1941. There was always someone living there. Chrissy lived up there.

But they were mostly bachelors. It's so different. That whole area isn't at all what it was. Families moved out of that area. When we were there, it was real stable.

In the bar, they always had mature women for their waitresses. They didn't have anyone who was young. The women who worked there were like moms to the men.

"Mike" has been threatened too many times to want his name or the name of his hotel in the paper. He came to the United States as a young man. Now he owns a hotel in St. Paul that rents rooms by the night and the week.

Most of the people who stay is the construction workers. Like four week, five week, six week, eight week. Some of them stay longer because it's not expensive. If you stay on a weekly basis it's pretty cheap. It depends on what's in the room and the size of the room. It's not expensive. It's between $85 to $115 for a week. They share a bath.

What are the rules? Be quiet. No loud music. No alcohol. No prostitution. No weapons of any kind. I just inform them right in the front, if they will break one of our rules, they will be history. Immediately. You kick them out. You kick them out by yourself. You kick them out with the police. You give them one warning--second time they're out. If they refuse, we ask for police service. See, we are not landlords. We are innkeepers. It's different.

Most of the people are single men. Some of them are between separation and divorce. The place is cheap if you compare it to the apartment. You can get a cheap apartment for $270 or $280. But you need a machine gun sticking out your window to protect you. You need security guards walking 24 hours a day and four guard posts around this place. Some people can't take it any more.

Some people skipped out of apartments for whatever reason. We don't ask questions. But we ask them to follow the rules and pay on time.

We get a lot of good people from Canada, from Europe. We get them from Australia, Japan, Korea. Most of the people from Europe are used to this type of facility, because same thing in Europe. That's what I've been told. Travelers, students coming to the U of M from other countries, all over the world.

I've gotten it all. I had one gentleman, construction worker. The company called to set up a room for him. He came. Very nice gentleman. And he went drunk completely. Walk out naked in the hallway.

We had one person who came here, an extremely quiet person. Then we find out he was sent from a mental institution. He was released. We called the police because he claimed he was an FBI agent, that he was doing a sting operation. He was crazy. Started screaming for two hours. We asked him to leave.

You see a lot of bums come in. That is a problem. They sleep under the bridges, and God know where. They're dirty, their rooms aren't clean. It's more expensive to clean up after them than to rent a room to them.

I've been here 10 years. I lost my job. I had to buy myself something. It was '88--not the best year. I received my pink slip at Christmas time. I was high-paid. I was project engineer. I could not find myself a job. I had to borrow money from everybody I knew to get the down payment. I'm still paying for it.

My philosophy: You don't take quality, you take quantity. You get yourself less profit but you have more people. I can't retire. If I get old enough so I can't handle it, I'll sell it.

In this work, you have to be a psychologist. I don't prescribe drugs. And I don't have a degree in the psychology. It just comes with the experience. You never know who you're running in to. A person does not come in through the door and on his forehead it says, "I'm bad. Don't rent to me."

So. When you talk to the person, you know what to say to him. It's just experience. You can see it in the person when he walks in, the way he is acting. That's why we sometimes say, "Hey, we don't have any rooms. We're sold out." We see the person coming in with a boom box. Just one word: "Room." I'll say, "No vacancy." Some come in, "Hey, buddy--how are you doing, buddy." You know it's going to be trouble.

But sometimes you feel sorry for the people, and sometimes you give them a break. A person working very hard, very quiet. Can't put them in the mission--it's a zoo. For a decent person, I'll wait for their money.

But I prefer not to make friends with them for one reason. When you get friends--how to say it nicely?--well, you give them fingers and they bite the hand.

Thomas Palmer lives at the Schooner Hotel.

I moved in here about six years ago. I had one room, and then I moved into another. You got so hungry facing Lake Street with the bakery fumes coming in the window.

The reason I moved down here is my mother had to go into the nursing home. She lasted three years. I turned the house of mine over to the nursing home. I owed 10 grand against it. Today it would sell for 79 grand.

The day after she died, the nursing home turned around and gave me 60 days to be out. It's their property. It was running me $3,500 a month for her just to lie in a bed. I think that's the cruelest way of anything. But you can't end a life, because the individual upstairs is only going to take that individual when he is ready. But nobody wants that. I would never want to go into a nursing home.

I worked down in the jail at Hennepin County, in the Sheriff's Department. When they brought them in for intake, I did fingerprinting, everything. I'd log 'em. Eleven to 7 in the morning, best shift there was. I had 14 years there, and then I had a big heart attack. I went off on medical from them. When I turned 62 a year ago they give me lifetime on medical.

I got married in 1965 and left in 1980. There's always a niche in everybody's heart. You spin it back like an odometer and pick it back up from there, things might be different. But it isn't. You just got to go, "You got today." And if you get up tomorrow, you don't care if there's a storm. You ain't going to cut it off anyway.

It's a nice building because everybody in the hallway or anybody renting a room, they get along real good. I do the cleaning of the hallway on the third floor. And people ain't messy. They turn around and if you go in and use the bathroom and if you leave a roll of toilet paper on the back of the tank--you know, in case a person didn't have one, or got in there and then decided to go--he can use it. It don't get legs. Because they all get a guilt trip. I just walk down the hallway: "I miss my toilet paper and it's only 99 cents at Rainbow for four rolls. And I'll roll somebody, I'll tell you that."

Now there's carpet on the floor where it was always the old tile. That makes it nicer when you get out of bed and you don't put your cold feet on something. I got one vacuum up there, and three people use it 'cause they got carpeting. It isn't the kind with the paper bag, it's the old one. You shake it out right in the paper basket in the bathroom. When you're done showering, the little mat, you lay it over the radiator. It dries it out for the next person that comes to shower. It's amazing. People ain't born to be messy. I'm not the neatest person, but I know where I can reach in the dark where something is, because I leave it like that.

You go to go out on a date. This works. A person's never been in here. So then we go out, come back, you want a drink? Bring her in here: "This is my game room." "Your game room?" "Yeah, it's in my basement. We have bartenders, and we pour a good drink. And it's amazing, even pool tables. How many people in their own home got that?" 'Til it dawns on them that this is a bar, and you live up there.

I wouldn't move from here. No way. I like my room. I got my refrigerator, microwave, electric fry pan and I get all the stuff ready. And today they even got microwaveable toothpaste, I think. Fat free. I can go and come any time of the day, and I got everything I need and when I want, I'll walk over and I can go any place. I couldn't live out at the Mall of America because it takes too long to walk around.

In this day and age, you can live in Edina, you don't leave your lawn mower out in front and work in the backyard. It's gone. It's every place. It ain't just in the older neighborhoods. But here you can leave your door open, walk down, use the phone, come back, you don't have to worry about people rummaging around.

Here, you need something, just ask the neighbor. It's just like a big community center. You depend on each other and I like that because if you can't rely on your friends then you might as well just go into solitary. Because then you're not even going to trust yourself.

A guy asked me if I won the lottery, Pick Three or any of 'em. Would you move? Nope. And I don't have a phone? Nope. So they can't sell me nothing? Yup. If you wanna talk to me, you can come down to my game room.

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