My first day in Corcoran included everything north of 33rd Street as well as a few blocks of more southerly area near Hiawatha Avenue. For day 2, I filled in the remainder using a path that started and ended at the corner of 36th Street and Cedar Avenue, supplemented by a few spurs shown in red.
I don’t enter into a walk with a specific theme in mind, but sometimes one emerges. In this case, much of what I noted revolved around art (especially murals) or local businesses — sometimes both together. Indeed, the walk got off on that foot with the law office of De León & Nestor on the northeast corner of Cedar Avenue and 36th Street hosting a striking mural on its south wall.
Ed Felien’s article in the Southside Pride quotes attorney Susana De León as explaining that the mural, Duality of Life, was painted in 2008 by Santos Molina Garduno: “On the left we have the day meeting the night, and in its twilight, the two energies facing each other in respect, as they know the importance of one another for the world to be in balance. The cactus on the right is giving its precious liquid to nourish the child who represents the hope and renewal of all our lives.” The article includes even more information from De León; read it.
Heading north on Longfellow Avenue, I spotted a painted door leaning against a fence. Beyond its colorful artwork primarily depicting plant life, it features inscriptions of “LOVE,” “GROW COMMUNITY,” and “CORCORAN GROWS,” the latter being my first clue to the existence of Corcoran GROWS (Grass Roots Opens Ways to Sustainability), a community organization whose signs I would repeatedly see.
Wrapping back around to Cedar Avenue, I explored south down into the 3400 block before returning to 34th Street to head east. In the 3400 block of Cedar, I saw several more businesses, starting with Hayford Auto Repair. This shop still carries the name of its prior owner, but it has been owned by Sam Mulari since 2004, an admirable longevity.
Further south on that block the Susan Hensel Gallery is home not only to Ms. Hensel’s own work and her Sue’s Luxury Fiber business, but also to a window gallery that hosts other artists’ work. Currently, I was able to see the whimsical creations of Joan Kloiber. Next door, Blackbird’s Music Storepromotes a simple goal: “Play well. Live well.” Hard to argue with that. Then comes Brothers Electric, followed by the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization at the corner with 35th. Outside the neighborhood organization’s office, a traffic light control box display the colors and flowers of artist Sree Nair as a result of a neighborhood project.
Returning to 34th Street, the south wall of the Winner gas station across from Hayford Auto displays another mural, this one by Elise Kyllo. Once I looked past a parked car, I was able to read the mural’s entire poem:
Even after all these years,
the Sun never says
to the Earth
“You owe Me.”
Look what happens
with a Love like that,
It lights the
This poem is attributed to Hafiz (or Hafez), a Persian poet of the 1300s. It appears (with different line breaks) in The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, the Great Sufi Master, translated by Daniel Ladinsky, 1999.
This attribution is not without controversy: Arash Azizi claims that Ladinsky did not in fact translate the poem but rather set it down directly in English, explaining that Hafiz had sung it to him in English in a dream. For Azizi (and Murat Nemet-Nejat, whom he quotes), this makes it a Ladinsky poem rather than a Hafiz.
I’m not ready to reach that same conclusion. Firstly, reading Ladinsky’s preface as a whole doesn’t make the connection between dream and book so explicit as Azizi suggests. More fundamentally, I’m not willing to dismiss Ladinsky’s attribution of the poem to Hafiz because it is a spiritual belief not suited to scientific investigation. Ladinsky has as much right to assert the reality of Hafiz’s authorship as members of mainstream religions have to assert any of their beliefs, such as the reality of a voice from a bush that burnt without burning up. All I’m prepared to say is that such a bush is not burning in any ordinary sense of that word, and likewise it may be that Ladinsky’s translation from Hafiz is neither a translation in the ordinary sense nor from Hafiz in the ordinary sense.
Even in National Poetry Month, I could linger only temporarily in contemplation of this one poem; like Bashō, I needed to inhabit a journey rather than a place, driven onward by the desire to see new sights. As it turns out, those new sights would include more visual art — and even another poem.
The next place I paused for art was on 25th Avenue, after I had walked that far east on 34th Street, passing Corcoran Park along the way. In the 3500 block of 25th Avenue, a little library drew my attention because of how it broke from the norm. Whereas most are painted, often in a very tidy style, this one is a multi-media work predominantly featuring collage so as to create a deliberately non-tidy, do-it-yourself aesthetic. (At least, I assume it is deliberate. I didn’t think to ask the resident, who was planting seeds around the library’s base. Instead, we talked about why he likes the neighborhood: its good transportation connections.)
Once I was to 36th Street, I explored a several block area in the southeast corner of the neighborhood, which included some sidewalk chalk art, another eight-unit cluster development such as I had seen on the prior day, and some signs of spring, such as the flowers shown below. (Earlier in the walk, I had seen my first pair of cardinals of the year.)
I then began looping my way back westward. A fence in the 2400 block of 35th Street reminded me of Mark Rothko’s color field paintings, particularly Orange, Red, Yellow (1961) and Red Orange Orange on Red (1962). Like Rothko’s works, the fence is painted in several analogous colors that evoke emotional responses through how they appear to advance out of the plane or recede into it. Of course, I may be over-analyzing this. Perhaps the homeowner simply wanted to be environmentally conscious by using up tail ends of several paints. If so, file this under “found art.”
My path took me through the intersection of 35th Street and 23rd Avenue twice, first entering from the east and exiting to the south, and then later entering from the north and exiting to the west. That gave me two opportunities to photograph the commercial buildings clustered around this intersection as well as to notice that the streets are wider to the west and south than they are to the east and north — a reminder that a streetcar line once turned a corner here.
On my first pass through the intersection, I noticed two places serving food. On the southwest corner, the Chatterbox Pub occupies two adjacent storefronts. Across the avenue, Vittles Catering & Deli occupies part of the retail strip, with Blue Tree Music Education using much of the rest. Stopping into the deli, I was tempted by the good-looking food in the case but decided to wait for a sit-down lunch when I passed back by the pub. For now, I contented myself with one of the deli’s chocolate chip cookies. (Life is uncertain; have dessert first.) After leaving Vittles, I saw that the south wall of that building is home to another mural, “Minnesota Grown” by Carole Bersin (2011), created in cooperation with the neighborhood organization.
From 35th Street, the neighborhood only extends a single block further south, after which point my path looped back northward on 24th Avenue. Notable sights on that avenue include a house that gains vibrancy from a pointillist mixing of colors, another Corcoran GROWS sign, and the Corcoran Community Garden adjacent to a CenturyLink switching office.
Incidentally, CenturyLink’s predecessors have had a switching office at that location (33rd Street East and 24th Avenue South) for many decades. It’s mentioned as the “Drexel” office in a 1920 advertisement by the Northwestern Telephone Exchange Company informing readers of The Minneapolis Morning Tribune that “These Girls Work for You.” The Minnesota Historical Society also has a photo from the same year showing the “Drexel” operators at work.
Using 33rd Street, I returned to 23rd Avenue and then headed back south toward 35th Street. Along the way, I snapped photos of an Easter Island head being preserved from Minnesota’s weather and a former Pure Oil gas station being preserved against the passage of time. The latter subsequently carried the Phillips 66 brand and is now the office of Bratt Tree Company.
Crossing 35th Street, I was back at the Chatterbox Pub, and this time I went inside. I received friendly service from Todd, who among other things told me that they are currently expanding to 34 taps. Already the tap list went way beyond the usual suspects. For example, this is the only place I’ve seen Bent Paddle’s Imperial Kvass. The food menu and the music were also more eclectic than conventional. However, for my own order, I stuck to the basics: a California burger with pub fries. The most striking feature of the burger was the prominent grill marks on the bun. The pub fries are french fries that have been coated with a crunchy seasoned batter, including dried thyme.
After lunch, I passed several other retail and service businesses on 35th Street and then turned south on 21st Avenue. The northwestern corner of that avenue and 36th Street holds the only church building I saw this day, in contrast to the northern part of the neighborhood. However, the sign out front indicates that this building is a three-for-one deal, containing Lebanon Lutheran (LCMC), Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal M.I. Lirio de los Valles, and Comunidad Cristiana Casa del Rey. The same sign dates the church to 1911, though the cornerstone says 1920 and the web site indicates the sanctuary wasn’t finished until 1925.
After looping back around to 35th Street, I spotted three more murals sponsored by the neighborhood organization in the 2000 block.
Artists are magicians. Instead of making an image of something real, they make something real out of their imagination. How overt the sense of magic is varies; you could look through the preceding images and rank them. For me, they were all eclipsed by the floating chair in the 3400 Block of 20th Avenue South. Its levitation is every bit as convincing an illusion in person as in the photo. The rebars that I was eventually able to make out below its legs are well camouflaged, not only by the similarly colored background but also by the visual distraction of the plant stalks around them.
As I returned to 35th Street on 19th Avenue, I took a brief detour half a block to the west on 34th Street in order to photograph a mural I had missed when heading east. Like the Sun mural on the Winner gas station, this one features a Hafiz/Ladinsky poem — or rather an abridged version of one. The whole poem can be found in The Subject Tonight is Love: 60 Wild and Sweet Poems. As to the mural itself, with its petroglyph-like forms and lovely color scheme, I’d welcome information as to who painted it and when.
In the 3400 block of 19th Avenue, I saw one last Corcoran GROWS sign. On the north side of 35th Street near Cedar Avenue, a mural on the east side of a building depicts scenes from the neighborhood, while the building itself contains Sea Wolf Tattoo Company. The mural was painted by Tammy Ortegon together with youth from the neighborhood. Directly to the west of there, on the corner with Cedar Avenue, is the colorful office of the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization.