‘Death in the city’

Perhaps you’ve been wondering what I’ve been thinking about the recent tragic events that began in Minneapolis.

I’ve been reluctant to talk about it. Frankly, I’ve just been hunkered down, “sheltering in place,” as the saying goes. I’ve reduced my talk radio listening, because it’s just too sad and depressing. I’ve buried myself in light reading, which is why I’ve been doing so many book reviews lately.

I’ve actually seen none of the rioting. Property destruction was centered in the southern inner city, far from my home. Some damage has been reported in a suburb north of me, but the boarded-up store windows I’ve seen personally have been precautionary.

But the area of main damage in Minneapolis, around the intersection of Hiawatha Avenue and Lake Street, was my old stomping grounds. I lived in that area for much of my twenties. Not only am I familiar with some of the destroyed businesses, I even remember what businesses were there before them. Spent a lot of time waiting for buses around there, back before I owned a car.

The most famous casualty for readers is of course Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore. Uncle Edgar’s was its twin, serving the mystery market. Uncle Hugo’s was not only a cultural landmark but one of the seedbeds of the whole Fandom movement.

I wasn’t a regular customer at Uncle Hugo’s, but I’d been there a number of times. I participated in a book signing there once (that was where I met Lois McMaster Bujold).

And it was there I had gone way back in 1984, flush with the excitement of my first commercial short story sale, to Amazing Stories. I asked the owner to order me extra copies so I’d have a stock to give away (I wasn’t aware I could order them from the publisher – that’s how green I was). When I went to pick them up, he asked me to sign a couple copies he’d ordered for himself – “So I can show them to people when you’re rich and famous.”

If those copies still existed, they’re ashes now.

Another loss – not burned but trashed – was a local Scandinavian meat market and gift shop. I bought stuff from them every year. I think I won’t provide their name here, since I assume they’re ELCA Lutherans and wouldn’t care to be associated with me. But they’d been on Lake Street since the 1920s, back when the place was thick with Scandinavian immigrants. Over the decades, through multiple population changes, they’d stayed committed to the neighborhood.

No good deed goes unpunished, as the saying goes.

When the George Floyd tape was first released, I was horrified. But I also thought – just for a moment – that this might bring us all together, in common outrage.

Instead it gave a golden opportunity to the neo-Maoists.

Pray for us. Especially for the poor who, as always, pay the highest price for the ideological games of intellectuals.

3 thoughts on “‘Death in the city’”

  1. I actually bought a unsigned copy of the Amazing Stories from Uncle Hugo’s to read your story a while back.

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