We Never Get Used To It, Do We?

After spending the past few days feeling like I’d been donkey-kicked in the noggin, I popped a Vitamin D this morning. Finally, I feel better. It’s (-11) degrees outside and I think my body is telling me it can’t handle much more winter.

I have to tell myself it won’t be long until the lakes thaw and the Minnesota Twins open Target Field. The snow? That’s going to be here until July, but we’ll make do. The parks will open along with the golf courses, while shorts and flip flops will replace long underwear, slacks and dress shoes. Jack Johnson, the Zac Brown Band and Jimmy Buffett will provide the soundtrack. Finally, Twin Citizens will be able to park on both sides of the road, no just the odd-numbered side.

And me? I won’t have to pop Vitamin D pills to get my mind right.

Had a nice chat with a taxi driver the other night coming home from the airport. He was born in Somalia but moved to Minneapolis when he was 11. (He must’ve been in his early 20s.) I told him this was my first winter back in Minneapolis after living in Portland last year.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “We never get used to it, do we? Just when you think you’re used to it, it’s spring.”

And then it’s warm. Insufferably warm. Pollen coats cars, sidewalks and windows and the air conditioning can’t get cold enough. Your dashboard nearly buckles under the harsh sun rays and just when the temperature becomes comfortable, the wind comes up. There’s thunderstorms – big, rumbling, untimely thunderstorms to interrupt softball games, picnics and weddings. And the humidity. That godawful humidity, only made worse by the swarms of mosquitoes.

We never get used to it, do we?

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How Metro Transit Can Boost Its Public Image

Metro Transit needs to aggressively position itself as an alternative to driving.

I came this close to balking on my New Year’s Eve plans this year for fear of getting safely to and from downtown Minneapolis.

I wasn’t about to spend $60 on a cab. (That’s what the neighbors above me paid.) I wasn’t going to have just a few drinks and chance driving home. Walking was out of the question, because it was godawful outside. So, how did we manage to go on with plans?

Public transportation — the forgotten ride.

After using public transportation almost daily in Portland, Friday night was the first time in six months I’d relied on Metro Transit. I drove downtown and parked at my office, where my girlfriend and I rode two miles to our destination for $1.00. Around 1:10 a.m., we hopped on another bus to catch a ride home. That was just $3.50. I cheated by leaving my car downtown, but I spent just $4.50 to get around town on New Year’s Eve. That’s ludicrous. You’d be lucky to find a bottle of beer for that much.

I’m working with a small sample size here, but my initial bus ride wasn’t the most pleasant. A group of teenagers piled up in the back and spent the ride shouting profanity, belting R&B songs and taunting the bus driver. Several other passengers yelped into their cell phones. The bus driver never once acknowledged the behavior. It made for an uncomfortable experience, but again, it probably wasn’t indicative of the average bus ride in Minneapolis.

It made me think about local attitudes regarding public transportation. We’re blessed to live in the land of parking lots, so for anyone with a car, you can drive just about anywhere. Buses are generally seen as transportation for those without a vehicle of their own. For a public transportation system to be great, that attitude has to change.

But, how does it change?

There were some similarly unsavory rides in Portland, but there was great self-policing among passengers and TriMet — the local governing body — included signage in every bus and light-rail car to outline proper rider etiquette. On top of that, drivers and conductors were quick to remove unruly passengers who were ruining the experience for others.

And that’s what Metro Transit needs to focus on — the experience. Riders should feel safe, enjoy the quiet, and worry simply about when to get on and when to get off. Buses and light-rail services should be seen as a convenient, affordable, stress-free alternative to driving for those who wouldn’t otherwise ride. That’s how Metro Transit ups ridership — by being viewed as an alternative, not a last resort.

I can’t say when I’ll use Metro Transit again. I’m lucky to avoid the major highways during rush hours, but I’m all for taking a bus to and from downtown on nights my girlfriend and I want to go out. I would encourage any Twin Citizen to do the same.

I Got The Job

Today seems like a fitting day to announce I’ve accepted a job offer at Fast Horse. Effective mid-January once my internshipexpires, I’ll be hopping on full time as an Associate.

I waited until today to break the news — I found out last Friday — because it’s Lose the Laptop Day at Fast Horse, which is ironic considering laptops had everything to do with me earning my internship and eventual employment. The reason I’m so excited about this job opportunity is for the fact I work at an agency that stays on the cutting edge, but not without challenging itself to get better. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, the whole staff is working away from their computers. That’s like an auto repair shop saying, “All right guys, no drills today.”

But as with mechanics and their power tools, marketing and public relations existed long before the Internet. It’s a relationship industry, after all, and while social media makes it easier to maintain contact, Lose the Laptop Day forces us to go out and engage, to meet people, to re-hash friendships, to learn the world we’re selling to, to be a consumer, to be inspired. We’re channeling our inner Don Drapers and Peggy Olsons, as my boss writes.

This isn’t a stunt or a drill. This is an exercise about checks and balances, well-roundedness, self-awareness, moxie and avoiding complacency when it’s just so damn cozy. Forget an arbitrary seminar, workshop or motivational speaker — we’re living the lesson today.

So, thank you, again, to everyone who voted in the Intern Search back in June. Every week, I seem to meet a new person who voted in the contest. Recently, the conversations would end with me saying, “Now I just I hope I get the job,” and I would walk away a bit sullen, fearful of the reality things might not shake out the way I’d hoped.

But, I got the job. Holy shit, I got the job. Thanks again!

[Powers laptop down.]

Pit Bulls a Problem in North Minneapolis

Be glad I used this image and not something yielded from a search of "pit bull attack" on Google Images.

I grew up with cats. One, a vicious old Calico who expressed displeasure by peeing on things and the other, Sadie, a grey cat with a history of violence to which she adds new incidents every day. Caring for cats means keeping them fed and changing the litter box now and then. It’s a different ball game dogs — one I’m not sure I’m ready for.

Our good friend Kacy, who lives right above us, owns a Pomeranian-Pampillion mix, aptly named Gizmo. I like Gizmo because he’s not a lumbering, drooling, clumsy dog like a Retriever or Labrador. I’m sure Kacy would argue he’s got plenty of bad habits, but we’d agree Gizmo isn’t threatening. My girlfriend has taken him on walks around a lake the past few days and aside from drawing the attention of 50-something dog lovers, he poses little threat in public.

That’s the kind of dog I want. Small. Manageable. Portable. Obedient. Not a pit bull.

Interesting story in this week’s City Pages — North Minneapolis is overrun with pit bulls. (Read it here.) We’ve got anecdotal evidence from our neighborhood in Northeast, where we see pit bulls taking their owners for a walk on a day-to-day basis. True that it’s the ultimate alpha dog, but consider these frightening facts (from the article):

  • “Dogs in North Minneapolis are morelikely to be killed by police than canines from any other part of the city. In the past five years, Minneapolis cops have killed at least 113 dogs; 81 of them—72 percent—were killed in North.”
  • “Dogs from north Minneapolis face a greater risk of being shot than people. If they live in the North neighborhoods, dogs are more likely to be killed by police than their owners are to be murdered.”
  • Minneapolis cops are trained to kill dogs in two circumstances: if a dog is severely hurt and Animal Control isn’t there to help, or if the dog is a threat to the officer or others. According to Sgt. William Palmer of the Minneapolis Police, 99.9 percent of the time it’s the latter. “When I was on SWAT one year, we killed 12 in one month.”

The story — a home run by writer Erin Carlyle — also features a 300-pound postal worker who was mauled by two pit bulls on his daily route; a family with three young girls in Jordan who are terrified by their neighborhood full of pit bulls and two dog owners who’ve continually failed to keep their dogs from harming people.

Beth wants a dog, so the other night, she browsed through several websites to see photo after photo of pit bulls available for adoption. One site — 4 Luv of Dog Rescue — inexplicably writes its adoption ads from the dog’s perspective. Please adopt me! I’m great with children. I might be a little rough around the edges, but the past is the past, right? I’m hoping that’s not a sales strategy. With pit bulls, I don’t think you want owners who would fall for sentimental doggy prose. That’s going to cost someone a toddler.

I’m not ready for a dog. Someday, but not yet. I don’t want to coordinate caretakers whenever Beth and I leave town. I’m not ready to pick up poop when it’s (-23) degrees out. Shots, pet insurance, obedience school — you can’t mess that stuff up and it doesn’t pay for itself.

I do know this: When I’m ready to own a dog, it won’t be a pit bull. Furthermore, when I’m ready to start a family, it won’t be in a neighborhood where pit bulls roam. It’s not that I don’t trust pit bulls. I realize we live in a world where people are coaxed by online ads with clever dog literature, believe themselves to be humanitarians for rescuing a dog, and before you know it, they’re getting yanked down the block by their pit bull, who is clearly running the show.

I think I’ll pass on that for now.