As you may have noticed, Mankato laid down the first phase of downtown bike lanes in late autumn. Thus far, reviews have been mixed across the board.
A vocal minority of aggressive, uneducated motorists threw their usual shitfit via–what else–Facebook comment threads. (My favorite? A call for a petition to remove the bike lanes, as if the city hadn’t been planning this publicly for well over a year.)
Cyclists and motorists alike were confused by the Poplar Street modifications, which were eventually dissected by the Freep’s Ask Us column. Even so, citizens shouldn’t have to depend on a letter to an editor to learn to how use a slice of road properly.
And avid cyclists have felt a little squeezed by the Broad Street lanes’ proximity to parked cars. The risk of getting doored is high, especially in a town were drivers aren’t accustomed to looking behind them (or pocketing their cell phones) before flinging their doors into the street.
So there are flaws. But as a year-round commuter, it’s tough to see the lane installation as anything but a success, if only because it sends the strongest message possible that bikes belong on the road, not on sidewalks. Furthermore, prioritizing these routes shows some serious vision on the city’s part, as they connect to the off-street/multi-use trails around town with ease. I use them almost daily.
But there’s a problem: People keep parking in them. Especially on the weekends.
I tolerated it for a couple of weeks. This is a new thing for a lot of people–especially Buick drivers–so there was bound to be an adjustment period. Also, cramming driving lanes, bike lanes, and parking spots into the Broad and Cherry Street real estate was a difficult task. Some overhang was to be expected.
After a certain point, though, a keen eye can separate the clueless from the lazy. A full-sized sedan parked the bike lane in front of a church? Okay, you’re probably old as hell and don’t know any better. A glistening BMW parked in front of a law office, though?
Eat shit, pal.
Immediately after snapping this photo on Saturday, I rode over to the Mankato Public Safety Center, which is a taxpayer-friendly euphemism for POLICE STATION. Typically, I’m averse to contact with cops as they’re usually, you know, assholes. Yet there was truly a matter of PUBLIC SAFETY that needed attention, and that’s what the front of the building advertises. Parking in bike lanes isn’t just a dick move, it’s a dangerous one:
So, upon arrival, I called dispatch via the telephone in the entryway, and approximately seven minutes later, an officer came down to talk to me. While he didn’t seem particularly interested in the plight of the cyclist, he did take down the information he required: My name and driver’s license number…but none of the identifying characteristics of the offending vehicle.
According to him, their procedure for dealing with this offense is merely to chalk the vehicle’s tires. If the chalked vehicle hasn’t moved in 24 hours, the driver is subjected to a $25 parking ticket.
This is the same penalty for leaving a car parked on the street anywhere in downtown Mankato.
Let me be as plain as possible here: According to this police officer, there is absolutely ZERO penalty for parking a car in Mankato’s bike lanes. You can leave your vehicle in the middle of a bike lane for nearly an entire rotation of the Earth without repercussion.
This is perplexing, because a bill introduced in the Minnesota State Legislature in 2013–and subsequently passed–states that obstructing a bicycle lane with a parked car is prohibited.
Take a quick glance at Minnesota Statute 169.34, paying special attention to number 14:
169.34 PROHIBITIONS; STOPPING, PARKING
(a) No person shall stop, stand, or park a vehicle, except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the directions of a police officer or traffic-control device, in any of the following places:
(1) on a sidewalk;
(2) in front of a public or private driveway;
(3) within an intersection;
(4) within ten feet of a fire hydrant;
(5) on a crosswalk;
(6) within 20 feet of a crosswalk at an intersection;
(7) within 30 feet upon the approach to any flashing beacon, stop sign, or traffic-control signal located at the side of a roadway;
(8) between a safety zone and the adjacent curb or within 30 feet of points on the curb immediately opposite the ends of a safety zone, unless a different length is indicated by signs or markings;
(9) within 50 feet of the nearest rail of a railroad crossing;
(10) within 20 feet of the driveway entrance to any fire station and on the side of a street opposite the entrance to any fire station within 75 feet of said entrance when properly signposted;
(11) alongside or opposite any street excavation or obstruction when such stopping, standing, or parking would obstruct traffic;
(12) on the roadway side of any vehicle stopped or parked at the edge or curb of a street;
(13) upon any bridge or other elevated structure upon a highway or within a highway tunnel, except as otherwise provided by ordinance;
(14) within a bicycle lane, except when posted signs permit parking; or
(15) at any place where official signs prohibit stopping.
In light of these developments, I’ll leave it to the City of Mankato to answer the following questions:
1) Why did you install bike lanes without implementing a plan to educate motorists about their use?
2) Why are public safety officials ill-equipped to enforce state laws in regards to bike lane blockage?
3) What steps will you take to rectify these oversights?
We’ll be waiting for the answers.
Well, folks, we’ve finally arrived at that crucial time for compiling best-of-the-year lists: Spring.
The Mankato Free Press has released its Best of Mankato 2015 poll, and while the list of categories is certainly exhaustive, the nominations seem rather arbitrary.
For instance, NaKato is nominated for breakfast, yet, perplexingly, not lunch or “hamburger and french fries.” Also, there’s a “fast food” category, pitting the likes of Wendy’s and Burger King against local establishments.
Additionally, The Wine Cafe’s Wine Rack offshoot was somehow left off the liquor store list, and upstart pubs and eateries such as The Bicker Inn, Ummie’s, and the Garden of Eat’n go totally unmentioned, while Taco Bell gets a nod under “Mexican cuisine.”
Curious as to why this list is/was so haphazard, at least in its initial form? Well, scope this nifty little note at the bottom:
“Don’t see your pick? Nominate your favorite below, let us know which category and we’ll get it added!”
Ah! That’s the reason why the ballot has ballooned since the first draft of this post.
What could be more professional than letting your readers compile your cultural data for you? And after they’ve already placed all of their votes?
Certainly not predicting the victors in an overly-cynical blog post.
Here’s what we’re banking on the voters of Mankato choosing as their Best of 2015, in various categories:
Breakfast – Perkins
Look, we’re just banking on sheer numbers here. No establishment so wholeheartedly captures such diverse demographics: Blue-haired octogenarians that need to kill time between trips to Menards; the coveted 18-to-34 pisshammered-at-three-a.m. crowd that cares little about their unthawed, barely-cooked eggs Benedict; youth-group teens that are trying their damnedest to fill their free time with anything but what their bodies are telling them to do (namely, ingest drugs and have sex).
It’s almost unfair.
Coffee Shop – Caribou Coffee
Give Minnesotans some credit. Even the most milquetoast of sprawl-shoppers will gravitate to a homegrown chain. And, honestly, we’re the only ones that can stomach Caribou’s 800-calorie concoctions. It’s like Dairy Queen…for breakfast!
Hamburger and French Fries – Culver’s
However, we’re not above sampling fare offered by our exotic neighbors to the east, who are the only ones with the guile to put butter on a goddamned hamburger and serve it with freaking cheese curds.
Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt – Cold Stone Creamery
Because it’s not a treat unless it makes you feel like dying.
Fast Food – Chipotle Mexican Grill
Seriously, have you been to this place at any hour of the day? It’s hey-there’s-a-new-restaurant-in-Mankato panic mode ALL THE TIME. The shine never wore off.
Plus, it’s right next to Wal-Mart.
Pizza – Papa Murphy’s
I mean, why dine out and interact with other humans when you can cook someone else’s food?
Don’t forget to stop by the nearest Redbox on the way back to your cardboard mansion in Skyline. Night At The Museum 7 just dropped.
Steak – Applebee’s
Barring the inclusion of Benderzzzzzzzzzz’s TUESDAY STEAK NIGHT, Applebee’s saline-injected sirloin will reign not only by virtue of its sumptuousness, but its affordability. Again, the Perkins formula is at play: If you can nail down the high school / Social Security recipient ends of the spectrum, you’re gold.
Sub / Sandwich Shop – Jersey Mike’s
This will win because, somehow, it was listed twice on the ballot. This could be because there are two locations (both located in strip malls adjacent to superior fast food outposts), but it’s most likely due to the fact that the Free Press’ editors are terrible.
Mexican Cuisine – Taco Bell
One of the best things about the southwestern Minnesota is the glut of quality Mexican restaurants, but since college students can only afford Baja Blast and ergonomically-designed burritos after they’ve spent their allowance at South Street Saloon, this should win out.
Plus, it’s right next to Wal-Mart.
Asian Cuisine – Leeann Chin
Sure, getting a Leeann Chin in the mall was a decade late and twelve bucks short, but we FINALLY GOT ONE. (“Just like Rochester!“)
Italian Cuisine – Olive Garden
Mankato’s Italian game is bleak, son. BLEAK.
The Neighbor’s might put up a bit of a fight, but it’s crazy expensive. Furthermore, it’s marooned in that weird part of west Mankato where the town just kinda ends.
Wings – Buffalo Wild Wings
Nothing tempers the indignity of smashing your face full of barbeque sauce like being served by a bunch of depressed millennials forced to wear the leftover football jerseys from gym class scrimmages.
Bakery – Panera Bread
One time, I was tripping on acid at 7 a.m. in Nicollet Mall and couldn’t get into a Panera Bread bathroom because they had a keypad on the door that prevented homeless people from using it unless they entered a code from a valid receipt, so I bought a bagel and only finished half of it.
Also, if it’s good enough for Mark Kozelek’s dad, it’s probably good enough for Mankato.
Buffet – Pizza Ranch
Remember when you were a kid, and your parents hated taking you to the pizza buffet? It wasn’t because they were terrible parents. It was because it was loud, packed with screaming kids, and the food sucked.
But portions were unlimited, so they made concessions. However, you ultimately realized that the opportunity to play Pit Fighter on an arcade cabinet wasn’t worth the ensuing domestic dispute, and the dessert pizza really, really dried you out.
Date Night – Red Lobster
Look, we know you’re on a budget, and your date is probably going to want to throw down on a huge platter of crab and lobster, so you need to fill up on those free Cheddar Bay Biscuits if you have any hope of pulling off the “wining” part of the equation.
Happy Hour – Number 4
Behold! The best place to crush discounted drinks (that are actually the same price as regular drinks everywhere else in Mankato) amidst an ambiance of bizarre condescension and glitter.
Sports Bar – Rounders
Of all the places in Mankato that have lots of televisions and Bud Light with olives, this place has the most televisions and Bud Light with olives.
Patio Dining – Blue Bricks
“Dining” isn’t really something that one does at Blue Bricks, unless that’s the new euphemism for “smoking cigarettes with dangerously-drunk college students that haven’t yet mastered the art of social interaction.”
But the chicken sandwiches are pretty good.
Locally Owned Restaurant – HOW IS THIS A SEPARATE CATEGORY
Okay, this is exhausting. I’m tapping out before we even escape the dining bracket, and I’m sure you are, too.
Up next? The Mankato-area businesses that should take home the championship belts, with runners-up included.
See you soon, Mankato.
If you claim membership to any type of entertainment monoculture, EOY list season is something of a nightmare.
Starting in November, the print magazines unleash their Top 200 (or whatever) Widgets of 20–, because that the imprints that purchase their ad space need a jumpstart in promoting their products before the biggest shopping season of the year. This throws everything into chaos, as web-based publications then have to find a balance between going off half-cocked and being late to the party. (And by late, we’re talking about the actual end of the year.)
As a result, you end up with a 45-day blitz of numbered lists. By the time all your favorite sources are aggregated, you just end up with a chart of damn near everything that was released in a given year. The spectacle is exhausting, masturbatory, and not terribly effective at accomplishing its stated goal.
The best best-of lists are hyperspecific. Personally, my favorite ways to dig for things that I may have missed are by region and/or subgenre. Keep it concise. Brevity = effectiveness.
With that in mind, redjacket presents six of the best metal recordings Minnesota had to offer in 2014, presented in alphabetical order.
(Trust that instrumental prog legends Zebulon Pike would’ve had a seat reserved at the bottom of the page…had they actually told anyone that they released an album a few months ago and made it available via an outlet that’s not CDBaby. I swear, this band is almost designed to be ignored, content to become a cult curiosity twenty years after they’ve gone extinct.)
Wreck your neck(s), humans.
Antiverse – Cosmic Horror
That sphere-in-the-sky, pseudo-Seagrave album cover might lead you to believe this is a overproduced, newjack technical deathcore workout for flat-brimmed fingerflexers. It’s not.
Instead, Cosmic Horror is the kind of Black Dahlia Murder-indebted melodic DM record that could only be made by a group of crafty, grizzled veterans. There’s a real, honest-to-Dio ’80s thrash ethos pulsing through this thing, betraying its modernity and lending it a well-weathered combo of grit and goofiness.
Wish your melodeath was peppered with indiscriminate falsettos? YOU’RE IN LUCK.
Let it Breathe – River Wizard
Mankato’s Let It Breathe are essentially in their infancy, and that’s scary. I’ve stated before that prognostication is a loser’s game in this arena, but this stoner/doom trio is poised to unleash potent homebrews for the foreseeable future.
Their potential lies in the duality of their approach. The four-track River Wizard EP is swollen with smoked-out, fuzzed-up hum, while their live show trades the haze for driving doom devastation. Let It Breathe is a multi-tool act in a field packed with single tricksters.
Mahtowa Death March – Mansorrow
Nothing screams SOLO PROJECT like drumbeats that (charmingly) sound like wet paper slapping sheets of tinfoil, but that’s easy to overlook if you aren’t the type that critiques Vader albums based on snare production. If you are that kind of person, you might not be keen on this rickety, ravenous slice of blackened crust, but dammit, you should be.
The best part of this six-track eruption? That the raw-as-hell, simplistic riffery gives way to near-cockrock soloing with radical fluidity. It’s a weird mix, but it works, especially if you hold Scandinavian Jawbreaker and 5150 in equal regard.
Noble Beast – Noble Beast
If the album cover somehow left you guessing, let me spell it out for you: This is a power metal record. And a good one, at that. Not just by Minneapolis standards, but by Planet Earth standards.
Part of the reason this debut record gets that distinction is because power metal–that nerdiest of nerd music in all of nerddom–has been teetering on extinction since its improbable resurgence in the late ’90s. But the genre’s appeal lies less in its predilection towards Dio n’ Tolkien subject matter and more in its focus on writing actual songs with actual singing, something (like power metal itself, not-so-coincidentally) that’s dying as metal becomes more fractured and compartmentalized.
Yeah, the vocals are a bit grating when isolated, and the cheese is seven layers thick. But that comes with the territory, and holy hell are these hooks humongous. This is just a massive debut; a bit much to take in a single sitting, but chock-full of speed metal goodness that’ll make even the most hardened anti-power purist shitgrin with glee.
Nuklear Frost – Subjugation
Armed with a megaton mastering job and a multi-pronged vocal attack, Rochester’s Nuklear Frost is wired for detonation. Untainted by recent trends in USBM, their razorwire riffage and relentless double-bass attack is a marriage of still-vital blackness from a decade-plus past, when D666 and 1349 and even Naglfar we’re kicking our collective teeth in.
Don’t let the Szpajdel-style logo throw you off; the thrash-forward nastiness found here is more accessible than you’d think. Frigid yet robust, rollicking yet militaristic, Subjugation is a deceptively nuanced ripper.
Wolf Blood – Wolf Blood
Sludgy doom acts are still a dime a dozen, even when adjusting the cliche for inflation. But Duluth’s Wolf Blood take influence from all the right places while keeping things eclectic, never falling prey to stale-ass genre trappings or tonehound drone-ons. While the Vol. 4 / Sabotage vibe of “Dancing On Your Grave” is a highlight, the Matt Pike speedmode throwdowns on “Ochro Ologo” and “Black Moon” are solid goddamned gold.
THE Minnesota riffcrew to watch in 2015.
Consider this a return from “vacation.” It wasn’t a planned haitus, but it was necessary.
Prior to bailing for a few weeks, there were a couple of year-end posts brewing in the tank, such as a Best Minnesota Metal of 2014 list (which still might surface) and a personal Top Ten Tracks list (which definitely won’t; just listen to “Do It Again” ten times). But beyond total Listmania burnout, the prospect of premeditated posts filled me with dread. The current redjacket ethos is steeped in spontaneity. Too much planning and hand-wringing turns fun into work. That’s the death knell for a venture such as this, and we haven’t even started yet.
With that in mind, I immersed myself in the holiday season. I hadn’t had the chance to do that since my primary concerns were procuring a fake ID to see Nevermore at Station 4 and winning the Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers in NHL 2002. It’s not that I had consciously divorced myself from enjoying the Thanksgiving-Christmas-NYE trifecta, but when you spend the better part of a decade in willful, unwitting subscription to wage slavery, you lose the connection. You forget that holidays can be more than an opportunity to sell widgets to people with better jobs.
The opportunity to enjoy the holidays on my own terms wasn’t just a relief, it knocked things into perspective. I’ll just come out and say it: People that are cynical about societal celebrations are just looking for ways to be insufferable pricks. Yeah, I know rocky familial situations can provide a certain amount of chaos and discomfort, but if you don’t like ’em, ditch ’em. It’s all about focus. Fuming about crass commercialization (if you’re devout) or ham-handed evangelism (if you’re not) is merely a byproduct of misguided attention.
Your environment is malleable. Don’t like crowds at the mall? Stop buying worthless bullshit for your family and friends. Don’t want religion forced down your throat? Avoid churches. (Trust an expert: It’s easier than you think.) Don’t want your 4th-favorite Gaslight Anthem song ruined by a freaking Nissan commercial? Turn off your damn television.
Or at least cut the cable, America. Read your news and stream your entertainment already. Get with the program.
Speaking of streaming…the last few weeks have found me in the bleakest throes of Sons of Anarchy bingeviewerism. I avoided it for years because, from afar, it seemed like a mid-budget, white trash, sub-Sopranos soap opera. And it is, but shockingly, that’s not a terrible thing. The producers deftly gloss over sledgehammer dialogue by employing a multitude of Deadwood alums; elsewhere, they give penance for a nu-bro, Sturgis-douche soundtrack with occasional Sun Kil Moon cameos.
Caveat: The third season’s “motorcycle club travels to Belfast to rescue a kidnapped baby from the IRA” arc is as atrocious as it sounds, but if you can make it through The Walking Dead‘s farm season (an admittedly tall order), you can make it through this flabby-ass diversion while you dust your bookshelves and knit a few sweaters or whatever.
Stay tuned to redjacket in 2015, where we’ll continue our condemnation of crabby, entitled assholes and offer flaccid commentary on five-year-old television shows!
Get Red With…
Danko Jones -“Rock Shit Hot”
It’s easy to forget, but ten, fifteen years ago, Danko Jones was the business. Dude’s early work is white-hot, minimalist garage rock, but hardstyle.
A tight counterpunch to the hollowboned, pre-hipster janglerangle of the time, Danko’s rockabilly-infused speedblues was dripping with comic machismo. His tales of using guitar swag to steal poseurs’ girlfriends–only for them to (predictably) rip his heart out–are hilarious, and his testosterone-jacked attempts to rebuild his ego in public are as charming as they are danceable.
Obviously, his shtick hasn’t aged well–he’s become a creepy old guy that still buys Entombed records–but his initial bursts of youthful exuberance (the 2001 compilation I’m Alive and On Fire and 2002’s Born A Lion) are prime slices of uncool coolness.
We want to like you, Number 4 American Bar and Kitchen. But do you want us to like you?
By “us,” I’m referring to the enthusiastic gastrocrowd it halfheartedly courts. Number 4 was launched as Mankato’s first stab at high-end American fare–done so marvelously by Borough, Haute Dish, and other dually-hipster-and-family-friendly establishments in the Cities–but so far, its only successes have been financial.
Allow me to explain why that’s a bad thing.
For every good idea the restaurant throws forth, they do something completely asinine to negate the radness. Yet they get away with this ham-fisted halfassery for two reasons:
- It’s the most beautifully decorated establishment in town, and it’s not even close
- It’s grossly overpriced, and their core clientele–aging McMansionites that drive colossal SUVs and wear jewelry–will pay these ridiculous prices simply for the sake of paying them
Bizarrely, going to Number 4 is a status thing. Patrons don’t care that the service is mediocre and the menu is WAY too big for the chef to actually achieve something resembling consistent quality. They don’t care that tableside guacamole can’t make up for an inability to pull off a Cobb salad. They don’t care that a lengthy menu of $9 boutique cocktails is unable to obstruct an abysmal tap selection and a whiskey shelf with freaking GLENLIVET perched at the peak. They don’t care that the most exquisite bar-top in town is marred by an enormous plastic placard touting their BURGERFICATION Monday twofer deal.
But they certainly do care if any semi-washed, tattooed types–really, anyone aged roughly 25 to 35 that might look like they’re enthusiastic about something other than sports–invade their precious status bubble. The tension is palpable; I’ve been on the receiving end of open sneers, confused double-takes, and blatant mockery from other customers.
But really, the joke’s on them.
They think they’re experiencing high culture in Mankato, jangling their wristwatches and running up $200 tabs, when they’re really just buying in to a heartless, exploitative retread of Twin Cities cornerstones, set to a baffling soundtrack of “My Humps” and “Hollaback Girl.” In 2014.
But they embrace it unwittingly, ’cause that’s just Mankato’s style. Commerce kills culture, and enthusiasm is greeted with contempt.
(Number 4 does do a mean-ass, reasonably priced breakfast though, and you won’t have to brave the overly-douchey crowd. They don’t like to flaunt their wine hangovers in public.)
Get Red With…
Mahtowa Death March – “Pipe Bombs, Loose Morals, and High Fashion”
It’s not every day that you get tipped to a new Minnesotan band by a New Yorker (thanks for picking up my state’s slack, Kim), and it’s definitely rarer for that band to knife you right in the soulspot. This decade’s new-ish wave of black metal / crust hybrids has been crucial, and Mahtowa Death March enter the fray with a wicked-raw take bolstered by turbocharged sleaze. (Those solos!)
Think Midnight, Nekrofilth, and The Yellowgoat Sessions pushed through a superclogged Crepusculo Negro gutterfilter.
Tapes are five bucks and limited to 50, but spend three and do some filthy Northland Bandcamping.