I’m just full of beans today, as they used to say. Meaning, energy? Perky pesky enthusiasms? Methane? Well, let’s get to it.
Behold, a chair. It's in a seating area in the remodeled Baker Block, and while the decor of the rehab is a bit too kitschy-cutesy-Klimpton, with mix & match styles and some intentionally 70s stuff that's supposed to be cool but is really as ugly now as it was ugly then, I like the space. It's very modern Minneapolis, inasmuch as no one steals the pillow. It is a great comfort to live in a place where you never consider that people would steal the pillow. Social capital, social cohesion. Why would you steal the pillow? Someone else might want to use it.
You could have a seat and relax, if you wish. Read a book, look out the window and woolgather, listen to something on your headphones - in otherwords, step away from the busy day. It's one of the things I love about the skyway system.
I'm a bad man. I'm behind the times. People like me . . . we're a problem.
See, we hate the skyways now. They’re used by thousands every day, they’re full of shops, and so far the buildings haven’t locked the ground floor doors so theoretically people could go outside and walk around on the street, but the skyways are so seductive when it’s 10 below or even 90 above. Damn sexy Flanders skyways!
Ideally everyone should be down on the streets, making the sidewalks Vibrant, high-fiving friends, meeting strangers and falling in love, peering into shop windows while carrying a bag that has a baguette poking out of the top, and all those other signs of Dense, Vibrant street life you find in New York and San Francisco.
But no. We built the skyways, and now all the stuff that should be happening down there is happening on the second floor. When people go out to lunch in the winter - I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it gets downright nippy here from time to time, those times being October to May - people don’t bundle up, but just saunter through the skyways. The bridges connect different buildings, each with their own character and interior spaces. You’re unimpeded by crosswalk signs. You can even find a quiet nook to sit and watch the street below, if you wish.
This is bad.
McElderry seemed resigned to the fact that designing in downtown Minneapolis requires coming to terms with the skyway. “Fundamentally we understand that we are in a skyway city. We know this is something that is part of your arterial network,” he said. “But also we believe very deeply that the street, the streetscape, is coming into a Minneapolis prime at this moment where it is our duty to activate the street.
“So the city made an early decision to flip this inside out and bring the skyway inside the building in a very extroverted way — bringing life to the city, bringing life to the street, seeing people walk through the building, seeing this people come alive during the day,” McElderry said.
So, it’s win-win. Right?
“There’s a growing acknowledgment that the skyways have kind of ruined downtown,” said Commissioner Nick Magrino.
I could say there’s a growing consensus that the city commissioners ruined the last season of the Walking Dead, but that doesn’t mean anyone really thinks that. Nick’s bio:
Nick Magrino lived all over the country before arriving at the University of Minnesota in 2008, where he majored in Urban Studies.
He doesn’t own a car, and constantly talks about getting a cat.
Nick Magrino grew up all over the place but has lived in the Loring Park neighborhood of Minneapolis longer than anywhere else. He has a new cat, Sweater, and does not use hashtags at @nickmagrino. He is probably on a bus right now.
So Nick has decided to stay here and tell us how to live, and it’s not like Mr. Sweaters ever gets sick and has to be picked up from school right now. City life’s a lot easier when the only creature who depends on you can crap in a pan.
“I’m sure it was decided early on to include the skyway connection. I know you’re not going to start over and take the skyways out. It’s just in this downtown east area … it’s unfortunate to keep expanding the skyway system…”
Downtown East is what they call the district that’s rising around the USBank Stadium. It has two office towers, a smaller office building, many new hotels, lots of housing. Until recently it was cut off entirely from the skyway system, but now there’s a connection, and the people who work in the area can use the skyway to get around when it’s cold.
It's the shame of the city. Or, put another way, young guy with ablist privilege wants Grandma to fall on the ice and hit her head.
Commissioner Sam Rockwell called the decision to push the skyway into the building “an unbelievable shame.”
Push! It was PUSHED! Dark forces - Big Skyway! Pushed the hated tubes into the building.
“I think it goes against everything the city is talking about doing. It goes against the future of our city,” Rockwell said.
The city is not talking about removing the skyways. Carpetbagging urban studies majors who derive an almost erotic thrill from seeing car lanes replaced by bollards and bike lanes are talking about it.
“We’re not only adding a skyway but we’re doubling down on skyway activity rather than bringing activity to the ground floor,” Rockwell said. “This is a mistake of Minneapolis’ past and we shouldn’t further it. This is an opportunity to break part of the spine here and start to make it a little less convenient, to pull some of the induced demand to the skyway level and start bringing that to the ground floor.”
Break the spine. What he means is “reduce the viability of a system used by people who obviously find it massively convenient.” No one has to use the skyways. But they do. BECAUSE IT’S WARM UP THERE.
Ah, but what price comfort? By letting people use a big system of interconnected second-floor bridges, the street is starved of pedestrians - and again, that means we don’t have vibrant diverse vibrancy. We need throngs of people waiting for the walk lights, like New York! We need sidewalk cafes! Well, we have those, when it’s warm. We need people outside enjoying the weather! Well, that happens, when it’s nice. We need shops on the ground floor instead of shops on the second floor.
GOTT DAMMIT PEOPLE ARE SHOPPING AND DINING AT AN UNACCEPTABLE ELEVATION
Sorry; don't mean to shout.
Let’s talk about that spine, laddy buck. I used to work in a building that was three blocks from the nearest skyway access point. We were on the shank end of downtown. There wasn’t anything around for shopping or eating or other manifestations of vibrancy. Consequently people tended to stay in the building, because it was too damned cold to walk to the Government Center, and it shaved 20 minutes off your lunch hour. Now you have a park, which is great, and two towers with lots of employees who have restaurants on the skyway level AND downstairs, so they can eat outside during the months when icicles don’t form on the tip of your nose.
But let’s say we break that spine. Here’s how Mr. Rockwell hoped the spine would be broken:
The skyway on the right is the sole useful connection to Downtown East. Here's how people travel now from the Wells Fargo towers to the central core:
Red for inside. Here's how the walk looks after the spine's broken, with blue for outside.
In other words: Better that they walk down a street with the retail-free wall of the City Hall on one side and the fargin’ jail on the other, because yay pedestrian experience! Granted, they will pass some Public Art which consists of geometric shapes engraved with meaningless phrases in several languages, and you can’t put a price on the civic embiggenment you get when you see something pretentious translated into Hmong, but it’s not exactly an experience once has to have to die complete.
Anyway, that's the winter route. When it's the least bit nice people will take the park route. Because they want to be outside.
The odd thing: since we are a society that was shaped by the cold, our interior spaces are reflections of our culture and character, and distinguish us from other cities without them. But better you walk along, eyes weeping from the wind, than tarry in a lobby to study an the elevator doors from a hundred years ago.
As for the skyway connection between the new government center and the jail, I doubt that would be severed; the public servants who use it probably find it useful. Here’s the route today through the skyways and the tunnel to City Hall:
It’s an interesting space, with a few lamentable moments. The atrium of the Government Center is huge - 27 stories, and it’s usually quite bright. It shouldn’t be there, because it encourages people to be inside. If they want to look up they should go outside and look up.
Then you go down, and down again, to reach the tunnel that goes under the street to the old City Hall. It’s an irretrievable space, except for the fountain - but that’s often dry. Even if it it works, it’s behind glass, like a wild zoo animal. You end up in a strange space in City Hall that gives you no sense of arrival; you have to make a turn, go down a corridor, before you find the main atrium.
It’s not ideal. But alas: the city grew in a fashion that put the front door on the other side of downtown, so here's the ideal route with maximum streetyness:
The front entryway is still there. It’s magnificent. People can choose between a moment of Civic Glory, or convenience.
Key word: choice.
What Nick and Sam want to do is remove your choice, because people, those stubborn mulish people, have chose incorrectly. If they could, they’d rip down every skyway. Remember: the city is not to be designed for the way people want to live. It’s to be designed for the way they should live. If you make them do the things they’re supposed to do, eventually they’ll like it. Or at least stop complaining.
I swear to God, if I find these fellows in the skyway I will take them by the hand and lead them to an escalator, because it’s obvious they got lost, and really shouldn’t let go of Mum because they wander off, naughty lads. Hope it’s not January, and they’re lacking coats.
From the 30s, it's G-Men meets Bond, sort of.
This is a clever way to bring everyone up to speed:
When last we saw our hero, Secret Agent X-9, he was facing certain death, but c’mon, it’s the first ep.
Anyone who’s been knocked unconscious knows that there’s nothing like the restorative effect of water. Why, you’re all ready for a good swim. What follows is pure serial: he swims to catch up with the other guy, and they have a fistfight in the water while the other bad guys shoot at them. But then the harbor police show up, and the bad guys flee.
Back at Police HQ, they’re letting Blackstone go. He’s the go-between for Brenda The Unseen Jewel Crook Mastermind, and he’s being let off on a technicality. Secret Agent shows up towing the guy he tussled with in the drink - the clerk in the art store Blackstone had visited, in case you forgot. (I had.)
Nice little noirish moment:
Now we have this guy:
He’s from the Belgravian Embassy, and he’s working with the Gang. He slips a gun to the art-store clerk, who escapes. Secret Agent goes after him by dashing out the window and jumping to the fire escape. The view:
Okay, where is this? Right here.
Matte shot, but this . . .
. . . is based on reality. I think. The Met Life complex. The shorter white building was supposed to be much, much taller . . . but then Old Man Depression, and all that bother.
Anyway. Back to our story! The bad guy falls off the roof, and the building’s so tall he has time to change clothes on the way down:
We don’t see him hit, but it’s like he was aiming for a big blood spot from the last guy who fell off the top of the building.
Then we get a shot of the crowd’s location:
Test your logo skills:
That’s easy enough, right? As for the location, we see "Cadillac Hotel" on the left side fixes the spot in lower Times Square.
Anyway! Sorry. There's usually not this much exterior detail in a serial.
It’s too bad that he’s dead, because he’s the only one who knew where the receipt was. Remember last week? Turns out that wasn’t Brenda painting the receipt into a picture, it was the guy we just saw fall. So now the gang doesn’t know how to get the jewels back, because the receipt for the safe deposit box is concealed i a painting, and they don't know which. BRILLIANT WORK GUYS.
Meanwhile, back in the Totally Normal American Neighborhood:
Yes, it’s the Art Store District. The blonde gets a visit from the gang, who’s sent a guy who says he’s been sent to pick her up, and take her to Mr. Raymond’s house to appraise a painting.
Special Agent X-9 happens to be in the back posting as a plumber, a fact they neglected to mention.
She makes a phone call to “Michael” and speaks in a foreign language, then leaves. Special Agent X and Comic Relief Pidge the Taxi Driver follow the blonde to Mr. Raymond’s mansion.
Now, we know she’s in on the plot, because this happened earlier:
She gave the gun to the Belgravian fellow who gave the gun to the crook who escaped but fell off the roof. Got it?
But something says she’s Not All Bad, and might be turned for Good. The Blonde is cooling her heels in a room, and takes the opportunity to start rifling through desk drawers until she finds a list naming all the Belgravian Crown Jewels. The woman who let her into the house interrupts her snooping and they fight.
I have no idea what is going on.
Secret Agent X has a brilliant plan to get into the heavily-guarded house:
The old turn-on-the-sprinkler gambit, eh. Nice work. He gets inside, and locks up the woman who’s guarding the blonde.
Which is technically true, but we’re still unsure about things. Secret Agent X-9 shouldn’t be fooled so easily. Well, he’s got to get them out of the mansion, and since there isn’t much time he has the film editor advance the speed:
They escape, but since Pidge is speeding they get pulled over by the motorcycle cops. This gives X-9 a chance to tell the cop to alert all the other cops, and send a team to the rt store.
You know, he doesn’t exactly have a lot of probably cause here. But it’s an excuse to drop in something from another movie:
Pulse-pounding thrills as numbered disks are moved from one peg to the other! Well, X-9 and Pidge happen to see the crooks leaving the art store, and give chase. Without making anything even approximating a definite ID, X-9 pulls out a rod and starts shooting at the car as they drive down a busy street.
Turns out we do have some high-tech:
The blinding light! Awesome.
I’d say this is a bit lame, but if I got nine clips out of it, well, it has something going for it.
That'll hold the little bas - oh, is this thing on? That'll do; see you tomorrow, with a Diner. I have several in the bank but the microphone problems have meant the latest few I did are substandard. It's frustrating, but either I wait to get everything fixed and not post anything, or keep them going and eat up the reserves.