Mayor R.T. Rybak Sticks It To Greedy Tow-truck Terrorists

I’ve been towed exactly seven times in my life. Each time, it’s been a kick in the pants, because you never want to be in a position where a) someone has taken your vehicle without asking and b) they want a lot of money before they return it. That’s a ransom where I come from.

Approximately 400 vehicles were towed in Minneapolis over the weekend. A total of 17.1 inches of snow fell on the city, leaving many vehicles stuck during the snow emergency. The good news is Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak offered amnesty to anyone who was towed over the weekend, citing in many cases that vehicles couldn’t be moved because the streets simply wouldn’t allow it; stuck not by negligence but by Mother Nature.

So, high-five, Mayor. Thanks for preventing the tow-truck terrorists from fleecing helpless citizens.

No one’s ever happy to call a towing company and I can’t imagine a more miserable job than receptionist at a towing company. It’s a business of doom and gloom, legalized robbery, a damn racket. What never ceases to amaze me are the names these towing companies go by. In the Twin Cities, we have:

  • Always Available Towing — Seems like more of a threat than an assurance.
  • Cheap Towing — Define “cheap.”
  • Yeah Buddy Towing RecoveryTowing like a big shot?
  • A+ Towing Inc. Not a lot of A+’s in the towing industry, you know?
  • Gopher Towing — If the name was literal, I’d pay double to see that.

We’re blessed to have an off-the-street parking so we don’t have to park on the odd-numbered side of even-numbered streets running North or Northwest during the waning crescent if it’s a Tuesday in the second week of the month in an odd-number year if you’re a Libra and you live in a zip code with a square root between 245 and 247. Sure, MnDOT’s gone gangbusters on the social media front to help inform the general public of snow emergencies and dangerous travel conditions, but snow emergency parking procedure reads like an algorithm, and I can’t handle that math.

I’m just an English grad.

The Metrodome Blizzard, Or, That Just Happened

A foot-and-a-half of snow fell on the Twin Cities before the Metrodome’s Teflon roof buckled early Sunday morning, providing one hell of a finale for the city’s fifth largest snowstorm on record.

There’s plenty of takeaways from this catastrophic event, and not the least of these is what happens to the Minnesota Vikings for their remaining home games. Yesterday’s bout with the New York Giants was pushed back on Saturday when officials feared the facility wouldn’t be safe for a noon start on Sunday. (Good looking out.) After the roof caved, the game was moved to tonight at Ford Field in Detroit, thus eliminating home-field advantage.

Now, there’s concern the dome won’t be repaired in time for next Monday’s game against the Chicago Bears, raising the possibility, however remote, the game will be moved to TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus.

Of course, the timing couldn’t be better. Better, because the Vikings are unlikely to make the playoffs, so they’ll avoid any playoff berth without a home. Also, if the Vikings should venture over to The Bank, it would give fans/voters a chance to see what outdoor football in late December is really about. The Vikings’ Metrodome lease expires after next season and ownership has said they will not renew as they wait for a stadium bill to pass. Given this weekend’s weather, perhaps ownership will think twice about romanticizing outdoor football.

Here’s what I’m taking away from The Blizzard That Did In The Dome:

  1. Most of residential Northeast Minneapolis was left to single-lane traffic, making it extremely difficult to back out of driveways or turn corners. It was more snow than the city could immediately handle, so discouraging all travel made sense. The problem is the city can say no travel, but that’s not practical because people need to go places. My heart goes out to anyone who got stuck on their way to work. There should be a state law forbidding employees be punished if they cannot make it to work while there’s a no travel advisory.
  2. Shoveling isn’t so bad. It’s a great workout and you get to see your progress along the way. We live on a corner which means we have to shovel more than most, but it’s pretty cool to see the sidewalk with four-foot mounds of snow surrounding it. It’s like walking through a maze.
  3. Twitter was nothing short of entertaining — at first. Starting Friday, locals went mad with hyperbole, making fun of the severe forecast and basically retelling the same stupid jokes over and over. Someone died in this storm. Someone lost their job because of this storm. Imagine if the Metrodome had collapsed during a game. This was not the storm for hyperbole — its severity couldn’t be overstated. So, ultimately, clowns who made jokes about the storm — myself included — wound up looking like ignorant, insensitive buffoons.
  4. I admit it was nice having the winter off from shoveling last year in Portland. However, the best thing about a storm like this weekend’s is you get to see strangers helping strangers. Make it a personal mandate to help someone else if someone has helped you. The only way we’ll survive this winter — which starts Dec. 21 — is by paying it forward.

A Bitterly Cold Winter – Just The Way We Like It

As I write this, it’s no degrees out. It’s neither above or below zero – it is zero. As Minneapolis winters go, this one’s already proving to be quite the brute, and that’s saying something.

For those of you living below the Mason-Dixon Line who see the national weather forecast and think, “Man, why the hell would anyone live in those conditions?” – let me offer a little context:

  1. Intense cold is better than intense heat. No, really. If you want to be appalled by a climate, move to Tucson. Below-zero weather may be unpleasant at first, but you can dress for it. If you’ve got a down jacket, gloves and a hat, you can survive almost anything. As for intense heat? Lest you live in a nudist colony, there’s not much you can do when it’s 107 degrees out, dry heat or not.
  2. Cold brings out the good in people. Yesterday, for instance, I got stuck backing out of my driveway. Whenever the streets get plowed, it leaves a wicked wall of snow packed at the end of my driveway. I had forgotten about the Great Wall of Snow and wound up spinning my wheels for a few minutes. Then, a neighbor across the street came out, started shoveling the snow out from underneath my tires and helped push me loose. Never met him. Never asked for anything in return. Minnesota Nice, maybe, but I give credit to the weather.
  3. What does (-24) degrees feel like? No different than zero or five or 10 degrees. As soon as you get below 15, it’s all the same. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. (That is, assuming it’s not windy. If it’s windy and (-24) degrees out, you better have good survival instincts and a love for the indoors.
  4. We’re really proud of the cold weather. Discussing weather is actually one of the biggest hobbies in the region. Try going to a liquor store, video rental store or grocery store before an Alberta clipper is about to bear down – we don’t mind being forced inside. In many cases, it brings us out. Drive along a country highway at night from December through February and you’ll get used to seeing the snowmobile headlights in ditches. Don’t even get me started on hockey.

So, while this winter has already shown it’s teeth in the first week of December, I’m not complaining. Coffee, beer and soup never taste better than when it’s cold and seeing your breath is – admit it, no matter how childish – pretty cool. And in general, we’re pretty boring people up here in the frozen tundra. If nothing else, the extreme climate gives us a mystique, an aura, a reputation.

Tough, though? Hardly. You should hear us whine at the first sign of a summer heat wave.

Atmosphere at First Avenue on Nov. 28

Two firsts on Sunday night: My first Atmosphere show and my first show at legendary First Avenue.

The concert was gravy, because a few hours before the show, I stopped by Fifth Element to buy a shirt. Slug, Atmosphere’s emcee, was hanging out, talking merchandise with the store manager. I have no autograph or picture or cool story to tell. I said, “See you tonight, man.” He said, “Aw, cool, thanks.”

For just a moment, I felt like an 11-year-old girl. I’m rarely star-struck, but that was pretty damn cool.

50 Tyson’s Sudden Fame Raises Concerns Over Handlers

I live about three blocks from Edison High School, where one of the most popular rap artists on YouTube is a senior.

Antonio Henderson-Davis, 17, is better known as 50 Tyson. His viral YouTube videoshave been viewed more than 10 million times, he’s been featured on Comedy Central’s Tosh.0 and even landed a record deal with former NBA point guard Troy Hudson‘s label.

One more thing: 50 Tyson has autism.

On Sunday, the Star Tribune ran a feature on Henderson-Davis and the story is now free online. It’s a gripping tale about the autistic teenager, bombarded by newfound fame, whose eager to please. He’s surrounded by watchful parents, concerned teachers, supportive classmates and handlers, like Hudson, who may or may not have his best interests in mind.

You can read the story here. And if you do read it, I’m curious what you think. Please come back and comment.


The Fire Frazier Campaign: Well, That Escalated Quickly

I don't really believe Leslie Frazier should be fired. However, I question the hiring of anyone who participated in the Super Bowl Shuffle.

The Internet is completely wacked.

Consider: Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf fired head coach Brad Childress yesterday, and before newly promoted interim head coach Leslie Frazier held his first press conference, I’d already registered and began tweeting from @fire_frazier.

It started as a joke between a few co-workers, as we’re in the business of making things catch fire. Attempts to make things go viral often fail, but this ludicrous Twitter handle had potential. After all, it was completely bunk to call for the head of a coach who hadn’t even held an official practice, no less coached a game. I saw @fire_frazier as a poke at irrational Vikings fans who were willing to blame Childress for every last failure, not acknowledging some, if not most, of the blame should’ve fell on his underachieving team.

So, who started following @fire_frazier on Twitter?

  • DJ Tony Fly of 96.3 FM NOW
  • Rob Olson, sports reporter for KMSP-TV Fox 9
  • Jason DeRusha, reporter for WCCO-TV
  • Brandon Warne, founder of

@fire_frazier was also mentioned or retweeted by:

  • Erik Perkins, anchor for KARE 11
  • Joe “Phunn” Anderson, host on ESPN 1500AM
  • Dave Schwartz, sports reporter for KARE 11
  • Lynn University Sports Management in Boca Raton, Florida

Remember the Chicago Sun-Times story the week of the Vikings-Bears game? Bears beat writer Sean Jensen, formerly of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, wrote that Childress had long ago lost the locker room and included quotes and sentiments from six unnamed Vikings players who admitted they’d be happy to see him go. Jensen wasn’t so impressed with @fire_frazier:

@fire_frazier was even mentioned during Fox 9’s fan response story on the 5 p.m. broadcast. Go to the 2:40 mark:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Olson was right — @fire_frazier was started as a joke. I wish the new coach well. The one thing I hate about pro sports is coaches are too often made into piñatas because of their team’s shortcomings. I suppose that’s management, though. Forget the NFL — it’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world.

St. Cloud Students Vote to Pay Up, Save Football

Had St. Cloud State students not voted to increase student fees, Husky Stadium would've been much lonelier on Saturdays in the fall.

This week, students at St. Cloud State University voted to increase student fees by $1.74 per credit hour to save the football program.

How did such a major decision come to a student vote?

The SCSU athletic department faced  deficits of $550,000 in fiscal year 2012 and $600,000 in fiscal year 2013. Student fees, the budgetary equivalent of duct tape at state universities, were seen as one of the few lifelines that could rescue Husky football. So, the SCSU student government coordinated a vote and 20 percent of the student body showed up over three days to approve the measure.

President Earl H. Potter III confirmed the vote yesterday and  promised students and faculty he has no intention of cutting any sports. In the meantime, administration and the athletic department will work with boosters and corporate partner to strengthen revenue streams.

As a St. Cloud State student, it might’ve been easier to vote no. The increase is capped at 12 credits, so no full-time student will pay more than $41.76 for a school year. Still, that’s $167.04 over four years alongside increasing tuition and book prices and shrinking faculties and course offerings. As part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, SCSU’s academic budget will be cut four percent in 2011 alone.

For those of you keeping score at home, college students, in general, are paying more to receive less than ever before. But don’t feel sorry for St. Cloud State students, because at least they still have Husky football.

I wish President Potter would’ve taken the heavy handed approach and said something like,

“No more. While we honor the 88-year history of our football program, we cannot expect to burden students with more fees unless their investment is fruitful. Just 100 men among our 20,000 students play football, and I can’t fathom more than a dozen will continue on to playing or coaching careers. This is a new era for St. Cloud State University, but we will go on without football. We are a proud state institution, and what does or doesn’t happen for a few hours each Saturday afternoon in the fall won’t harm our reputation. This is in the best interests of the students and the school.”

Yeah, right.

Did I mention I’m a huge college sports fan? Basketball, especially. Don’t think I was one of those bitter jerks who didn’t support his college’s athletic program. I did. Faithfully. But had the athletic program just gone and disappeared, each and every sport, I would’ve been fine. I went to college to get a degree. I’m reminded of how expensive it was each month when I cut a check to payback my student loans. A percentage of that debt came from student fees, paid out over five years and dispersed to clubs, organizations and causes I couldn’t begin to name.

If SCSU students are content with paying up so young men can play a sport, so be it. I suppose that’s honorable and part of a liberal state of mind I generally respect.

My only question is what if the library had been in peril? What if the debate team was on the verge of extinction or the theatre department was drying up? What if the student newspaper could no longer afford printing costs?

Kudos to SCSU students for delving deeper into their student debt, so long as that charitable nature exists when other groups need it, too.