The Crackheads, Whores, and Thieves of the Midwest Hotel, and Me

Every time I think I’m doing well, that I have a college education, a white collar job in an office building, even my own business cards, that I’ve narrowly escaped my white trash fate…well, THEY KEEP PULLING ME BACK IN.

Yesterday morning, my girlfriend and I woke up, had coffee, and kissed each other good bye. She was going to use the car, and I was going to ride my bike. She called moments after going downstairs and asked, “Hey, where’s the car?”

“What do you mean? Isn’t it exactly where we parked it last night after we came home from Spill the Wine?” [Note the classy wine bar where I spend time with my classy friends.]

“No it’s not.”

I went downstairs, and she was right, my 1990 Dodge DyNASTY was not parked where I left it after coming home. It’s a rustbucket piece of shit; why would somebody steal it? There weren’t any street cleaning or tree work signs, there wasn’t broken glass (not that there’s a functioning lock on the driver’s side door anyway). It really was gone. I called the city of Minneapolis, and asked if the car was in the impound lot. Nope. They asked if I wanted to report it as stolen. Sure. They tried to transfer me. “Sir, the Stolen Vehicle Department is really busy, can you call back in an hour or so?”

A couple hours later, at the office, I tried to call the Stolen Vehicle Department again. No dice. I waited another hour. It was around four at this time, and I called again. Nothing. So I called the impound lot again. The queeniest impound lot receptionist of all times took my call. I explained to him that I was having a helluva time getting through to the Stolen Vehicle Dept. “Your car got stolen? That’s so sad.” I agreed. “They are so busy down there, but let’s try again.” My chipper receptionist was the most proactive voice I’d heard all day. “And I’ll tell you what,” he said. “I’ll hold with you. How does that sound?” Fierce. He got me through to the dour-sounding Stolen Vehicle lady and she asked me make and model and year and where it was stolen and all that, and then she told me she was sending a squad out to ask me the same things over again. She took my cell number and told me the squad would call when they arrived.

They never did.

Cut to this morning. My dad called me at nine and told me that Jeff at the Midwest Hotel found my car.


He told me to call Jeff at the Midwest Hotel, a flophouse on University and Vandalia by the Dubliner Pub. I called Jeff. He told me that he was working the desk that morning, and this Mexican guy that had been staying at the Hotel for the past five days boasted that the Dodge Dynasty in the lot was his girlfriend’s car. But Jeff thought the guy sounded suspicious–“didn’t speak much English”–so he checked it out, and my proof of insurance and my dad’s phone number were in the front seat. So Jeff called my dad. “And I drive a Dodge Dynasty myself, so….” I told Jeff I would be there in an hour.

For all the millions of new StephenHero readers out there, my daddy is a retired truck driver who lives in White Bear Lake and takes care of my sister’s kid full time. My dad and his charge, Ashton, were supposed to go to the Twins game this afternoon, but he told me he had time enough before the game to come get me and give me a ride to this crackhead flophouse.

I met Jeff in the parking lot. He was a forty-something white dude, in jeans and a t-shirt, with greasy grey hair, smoking generic cigarettes through yellow teeth and scratching the homemade tattoo on his arm. “My boss wanted to tow the car, but I thought there was something funny about the situation,” he said. “And ‘course, I drive a Dynasty myself.” He pointed at it with pride. “There it is, the white one, behind the hotel.” I thanked him and turned my attention to the brown one in the lot. I walked over to see how they had massacred my boy. The plastic around the steering column was ripped away, and a screw driver had been used to start it. My dad climbed in and showed me how to use this technique, since it’s probably not going to be worth taking it to a garage and having the steering column rebuilt. (May I just say, fuck.) There was a hamper of dirty laundry in the back seat, and an unopened box of Corn Chex on the passenger side floor. Jeff leaned in, “I think the white woman who stole the car is still up in 25 with the gentleman who’s renting the room.”

I was pissed. I mean, it’s a piece of shit car, but now I was going to have to drive it around with a screwdriver while this Chex-eating Goldilocks was up sleeping off her dimebag in room 25? I didn’t care that my 22-month-old nephew was running around the parking lot while some creepy old homeless dude was going through the Midwest Hotel dumpster looking for aluminum cans. This was bullshit. So against my better judgement, I called 911. I talked to the Minneapolis dispatch. I told her the story. She asked me if I knew the woman that had stolen my car. I said I did not. She told me the car wasn’t even reported stolen and that I had to call St. Paul because the Hotel was in their jurisdiction. I told her that I had tried to report the car stolen all day yesterday but that the department hadn’t sent a squad to take the report. She asked why wouldn’t they have sent a squad? I called the St. Paul dispatch. I told her the story. She said she had to call Minneapolis and then she would call me back. Ten minutes later, the Minneapolis dispatch called me back. I told her the story again. After accusing me of “not telling her everything” she told me that I would have to make a new report and call back. At this point, Jeff came out to the parking lot again and said that it was getting close to the end of his shift, and that he had to go work his second job scrapping metal in an hour. Finally, I called St. Paul and told her that the SUSPECT WAS UP IN ROOM 25 AND FOR CHRIST’S SAKE WHY WEREN’T THEY DOING ANYTHING ABOUT THIS? She said fine, she would send over a squad.

While I was waiting, I tried to regain my genteel composure. I slipped Jeff a $20 tip for his trouble. He explained that the Hotel has a reputation. “Hey, I’m sorry about this. I just hope they don’t treat you like you’re associated with the hotel. St. Paul considers this a ‘problem spot’–there’s drug dealers and fights and whores out in front all the time–so they’re not very quick to send over a squad. One time, I was held up at gun point, and they didn’t send anybody for 45 minutes.”

A strapping, blue-eyed, crew-cut St. Paul stormtrooper stepped out of his prowler. After a couple of piquant remarks about my poor disfigured Dynasty he asked, “So you don’t know any of these people, sir?” No. “So how did they get your number?” I pointed at the proof of insurance and the other piece of paper with my dad’s number on it lying on the passenger’s side. The cop turned his attention to Jeff. Jeff told him about the braggadocious non-English speaker and his girlfriend in room 25. “Somalian?” the cop asked. “Nope,” Jeff said. “Mexican, I think.” The cop called backup (sweet) and told us to sit tight. In about two minutes another St. Paul cop on a motorcycle showed up. Alright, finally, there would be justice! These wanton bitches were going down and I would be righteously, deservedly, elevated above the unwashed!

Nope. The cops came down and told me the other lady had fled and there was just a black chick left in the room. They told me that I could just take the car, since it was never reported stolen in the first place. (Right.) Oh, and that I should check under the seats for drugs. (Solid advice.)

I put the laundry hamper full of dirty whore clothes and the Chex Mix on the curb, started my car with the thieves’ screwdriver, and we were all pulling out of the parking lot, when a black lady came running out of the Hotel. “Hey! Hey! Can you please pop your trunk?” I sighed. I really think I sighed. Audibly. “I left some of my stuff in the back.” I popped my trunk and got out of my car and rolled my eyes at the cop. I pulled another laundry hamper with this chick’s shit out of my trunk–there was even a framed photograph of this woman in there (evidently, from better days)–and handed it to her. “Thanks,” she said.


Sweet Wild Jersey


Three quarters of the way through Bill Simmons’ superb but unexpected NHL Draft diary he mentions how much he loves the Wild’s “variant” (little dorky comics lingo there for my peeps) red jerseys. I hate the regular Wild home and away jerseys, maybe because I thought the North Stars jerseys were so cool. So B.S. made me feel a little better about myself as a Minnesotan today. That’s sad. But how hot would this jersey look with something like this?

Search Terms

Real quick, these were the search terms used today to find stephenhero.

“julian gough”  
six sigma scientology  
iron man’s an asshole

So I think we’re going in the right direction, kids.

Save the Ant-Man

Ran across a fantastic article breaking down the anemia afflicting today’s important novels (imagine that “My dear, I’m a Vanderbilt” kind of tone of voice). Basically, it’s an essay where this British dude, Julian Gough, a novelist and critic who used to play in the “very literary” Irish rock band Toasted Heretic, argues that the reason that all the award-winning novels are so boring these days is because tragedy is respected more than comedy. Especially by the…wankers (can I get away with saying wankers?) who vote for the Booker prize and write the prestige reviews. Julie argues that this is due to the lopsided nature of our classical inheritance–the tragedians (Sophocles, Aristotle) survived while only one comedian (Aristophanes) really made it through the Dark Ages. He also says, “In an age of kings, time is a filter that works against comedy. Plays that say, ‘Boy, it’s a tough job, leading a nation’ tend to survive; plays that say, ‘Our leaders are dumb arseholes, just like us’ tend not to.”

But most importantly, it made me think, “Julie must not read The Irredeemable Ant-Man.” It’s the best comic out there right now–written by Robert Kirkman, it follows Eric O’Grady, a small (literally and figuratively–get it?) red-headed-stepchild of a man. O’Grady gets his greedy little hands on the Ant-Man armor, which has the power to shrink him to ant size while he retains full-size strength, and proceeds to use the suit to oogle chicks, snatch purses, and occasionally commit an actual heroic act. It’s exactly what would happen if my little brother had access to an Ant-Man suit. It’s very much in the vein of Aristophanes, but with pictures and bustier chicks. I love it.

Unfortunately, it’s soon going to be, “I loved it.” Marvel just announced they’re canceling the title in September. So it’s always going to be a comic, and never a “graphic novel.” It’s not like it would’ve ever won the Pulitzer over here, but you’d think a good funny book would be appreciated on the anti-intellectual side of the pond. Sadly, not the case. Anyway, start picking it up and maybe the suits will change their minds. Here’s Kirkman talking about Ant-Man’s demise on Newsarama.

Too Early for the Truth

So I just got back from 9/11 Press for Truth at the Riverview. Here’s the deal: it’s going to be hard for the people to lose that conspiracy theorist stigma when you have some skinny goateed guy with a fanny pack screaming “WE NEED ANOTHER NUREMBERG, MAN!!” at the Q and A following the film. I mean, it’s great that the polite, well-meaning liberals of South Minneapolis are passionate enough to get into their Paul Wellstone t-shirts for a 10:30 AM screening, but while caring so much about something so early may be noble, it’s just not very cool. I mean, the movie itself was great–a sober chicken-or-the-egg examination of the the the media’s sloppy coverage of 9/11 in our age of the 24-hour-newscycle and the obstructionist, obfuscating Bush Administration. But the QA session afterwards, moderated by 9/11 Truther and sometimes-Minnesota Daily columnist Adri Mehra quickly devolved into the usual kooksville talking points–and “devolved” is misleading, because the first question was on the dancing Israelis and that was followed by a shouting match over the missing Pentagon missile footage. I mean, I know all this stuff, and I’m actually with these people on some of it, but with this approach, it’s going to be hard to convince, uh, more “normal people.” If you’re new to this party, best case scenario is dealing with the same bewilderment that comes with renting a season of Lost on DVD and starting in the middle, and the worse case is feeling like you’re at a Scientology meeting. I subjected my buddies JA and Cristina to the screening, and after watching the collection of sorta-well-organized victims slap themselves on the back for seeing Loose Change during the Q-and-A, well…Jesus. I don’t think I’m going to have any friends at the next one.

Anyway, I’m asking, who’s going to step up and be the Truth Movement’s Barack Obama? We need a star, a photogenic with a fluid delivery, and a sense of humor. And that criteria should already disqualify Michael Moore. I’m picturing a slimmer, more low-key, but just as funny Alex Jones. Because as it stands, this group isn’t ready for prime time. They’re exactly the type of pink-eyed activists you find holed up at a Democratic caucus in the Phillips neighborhood–ponytailed albino acid casualties, completely emasculated by society, railing about some bogeyman in the White House.

9/11 Press For Truth

Saturday, at 10:30 AM at Riverview Theater. Free screening of the Jersey Girls movie. According to my buddy Ross the goverment wouldn’t have even thrown a commission if it wasn’t for these chicks. Anyone want to meet me down there? Okay, maybe you’re asking: “What type of weirdo goes to a documentary about 9/11 that he could’ve watched on the internet for free?” I hear you. Probably me and a bunch of weird, grimy Truthers. But c’mon, it’ll be sweet. Wake and bake. And then I’ll review it for y’all by Sunday morning.

Who’s in?

Kate Parry vs. Alexis McKinnis

So, Kate Parry, the Star Tribune’s “Reader Rep” hammered’s Alexis on the Sexes for her cover story on outdoor sex. There’s been plenty of blog heat regarding the dust-up–both on mnspeak and Minnesota Monitor–and Alexis herself ran a comeback on her Girl Friday blog where she defended the integrity of her poll.

As somebody that writes for a magazine with a broad readership, I understand that it doesn’t take much to offend people in this community. A couple months ago, a mob of angry readers freaked out in the Strib’s letter section about my characterization, in a review of “The Merchant of Venice” for, of the Guthrie’s audience as “wealthy Lutherans.” I didn’t get the rancor at first–I mean, did these people really think I was bigoted by assuming there were wealthy Lutherans at the Guthrie Theater? I mean, we’re in Minnesota. Guthrie tickets are like $60. I went to St. Olaf. It was easy to do the math.

So I guess I’m not shocked that Kate Parry and her readers would be pissed at Alexis’ assumption that Minnesotans fuck like lady bugs. And I’m not shocked that, in turn, everybody in the blogosphere took the opportunity to point out what a non-big deal this was. I’m not going to defend Alexis on the Sexes as a journalist. I mean, Jesus. But here’s why this deal is kind of a big deal:

Because it’s another example of why Kate Parry stinks at her job. Or maybe why Kate Parry stinks at her job and her job stinks too. “Reader’s Rep” is such a joke. There’s already a letters section–why does the Strib need a Reader’s Rep? It would be different if she were an according to Hoyle ombudsman with an independent contract, but she’s a “Reader’s Rep.” They don’t need a television critic, or an architecture critic, or a media critic, so why do they need a Reader’s Rep? If they’re going to be all Six Sigma about everything, don’t you think they should chalk Parry’s position up to redundancy? Because she’s not anything close to a traditional ombudsman. She never takes sides against management. I mean, check out her recent column “Readers apply tough love to newsroom plan.” All it is is a list of pulled quotations from letters that gives off what has to be the false impression that people are split on the paper’s decision to gut its newsroom. It’s not a Brian Lambert post, let’s just say that.

Kate is a management-planted panacea for the Strib reader, whether outraged right winger, indignant feminist or merely cranky senior citizen. In the most critical transition period for the paper in memory, she’s never come close to taking a tough, or even interesting, stance with the higher ups on any issue, instead using her column to attack red herring like Sid Hartman and now Alexis on the Sexes. Her schoolmarm routine is old-fashioned and out-of-touch.