Essay from Kahlil Crawford

WHITE EARTH REFLECTION

In the land of Mnísota (Minnesota), the “Twin Cities” consist of the Imnížaska Othúŋwe (Saint Paul or StP) and Bdeóta Othúŋwe (Minneapolis or MPLS). These two areas are noticeably different in layout and structure. Modern MPLS, like most U S. cities, is on a grid with mostly straight and narrow streets. Modern StP, on the other hand, has a plethora of curved streets and avenues. 

One day, at an Irish bar in Imnížaska Othúŋwe, I was taught the reasons for this contrast (plus the finer points of Celtic barspeak (i.e. drinking a pint of “Smithwick” (pronounced “Schmi-diks”) should be preceded by the “Slainté” salutation rather than “Cheers”). Another Irish bar taught me the ins and outs of “The Troubles” and Irish nationalism, but I digress…

It was posited that the structural difference between the Twin Cities is due to their respective ethnic histories. Saint Paul was considered “an Irish town” akin to Chicago whereas MPLS was considered “a German Town” akin to Milwaukee. It was insinuated that the Irish tend to have more cyclical thinking akin to their famed Celtic knots and that the design principles of the knots are evident throughout the urban planning of StP. In contrast, Germans are often characterized as being more linear-minded which, in theory, may have contributed to the more geometric layout of MPLS.

As a Black Chicago “native” of Celtic descent, I can relate and speak more to the former. Walking around Imnížaska Othúŋwe felt more like home to me – with its pastoral vibe and statues and architecture that seem to narrate the city’s story. One statue, in particular, portrays a priest standing in a semi-disheveled state – his pants legs are wrinkled and his shoes are worn from his tireless labor:

Archbishop John Ireland, a native of Contae Chill Chainnigh in Éirinn (County County Kilkenny, Ireland) developed much of modern (not contemporary) Saint Paul. In the wake of the 1862 Sioux Uprising, he founded the Irish Catholic Colonization Association which settled over 4,000 Irish Catholic immigrant families on 400,000 acres of farmland in Mnísota. (Photo Credit: Jon Platek)

In Bdeóta Othúŋwe, there is a replica of the “Self Made Man” carving himself into existence from a granite block using a mallet and chisel. Surely, this feat requires concise design and execution – a single mistake could render him deformed and crippled – which speaks to the geometric precision that shaped MPLS.

(Photo source: Reddit)

My highlighting of these contrasts is not a treatise on the peoples’ character – it is an illustration of the historical evolution of their towns. Today, the Twin Cities are so diverse that ethnic generalizations are irrational. Generations of race and cultural mixing, as well as ongoing immigration and migration, have transformed Minneapolis-Saint Paul into one of North America’s unique “melting pots”: 

Where else can you find ᐅᒋᑉᐧᐁ (Ojibwe), Oceti Sakowin (Sioux), Latin@s, African-Americans, Southeast Asians, East Africans, Scandinavians, Germans, Irish, etc. living (and mixing) together?

Prose from Kahlil Crawford

It’s always midnight beneath the viaducts…

The metropolis is divided by viaducts – a disparate world where aerosol art is eroded by automobile exhaust and industrial rain puddles littered with man-made debris. Much happens beneath these viaducts – from the holy to the ungodly…

Apparitions haunt passersby whose footsteps echo tales of life, death, and all else. Rumbling trains accelerate black eroded raindrops, sending soot-coated pigeons into a frenzy – protecting their dark nests tucked deep in the crevices of this elevated underworld, their crimson eyes cry forbidden songs.

Al frequently passes through the viaduct – his preferred route from the 4th-floor room he inhabits at the Y to the Blue line train that takes him to his seemingly endless stream of appointments. Today he’s going to see his therapist who seems to derive pleasure from changing his meds after nearly every visit. Al’s short on change again, so he checks for cops then hops the turnstile, feeling a rush of triumph over the pricey fare required for the two-mile ride to Six Corners.

Photo: @chicagogeek

The only thing wobblier than the swerving train car is his trembling hand – a janky side effect of the Klonopin. It thins his hair too, so he sports a grey golf cap he got for a quarter at the Brown Elephant. However, copping donated gear is not Al’s main reason for frequenting The Elephant – it’s the cashier…

Xochil has dark, shoulder-length hair that she sometimes stuffs into an engraved clip that reads “Hecho En Męxico”. She doesn’t talk much, but her fluctuating tone fills the verbal gaps. When she speaks of the weather her voice lilts up as the sun showers or down if the rain falls. She always drives her points home with pronounced hand gestures that suggest she enjoys a good dance from time to time. Xochil says that the Brown Elephant makes her feel like she’s serving the Lord in a practical way.

After his appointment, Al takes the Blue line back east then transfers to the Brown line. He’s heading to East Lakeview for his weekly social rehabilitation group at Catholic Charities. He hopes they paint today because he loves taking his easel to the park and practice painting the big Goethe statue on Diversey. There’s something calming about the smooth, earthly texture of the metal and the giant hawk perched on the knee of the protagonist. The base of the sculpture reads, “To Goethe: The Master Mind of the German People”.

Photo: @metalphotoman

Directly across the street is the Elk’s lodge – it’s always been a mystery to Al. Much more ornate than the Goethe site, its Romanesque architecture and well-polished sculptures add to its mystique.

Poetry from Kahlil Crawford

LE FLEUR
for Bill Campbell

I am a flower.
My petals keep falling
to the wayside
One after another,
one by one.

Parts of my DNA
leave my life,
Shorten my stay.

What is life?
Seems like
it remains here
while we depart
for the unknown…

place in our imagination.

Chicago-ing

Ekphrastic Poetry from K.C. Fontaine

white squares float
within an ivory field:

no referential frame,
minimal abstraction –
une réalité externe.

the artists’ palm
paints life’s textures:

asymmetrical purity,
A Love Supreme.

“Suprematist Composition: White On White”, Kazimir Malevich, 1917-18

Short prose from I RΛM 0

DIGITOPIΛ

Technology conglomerates will access transcendental languages, localities, and emotions. Digitization shall enable nations to eliminate tactile human engagement to speed up global development – scaling and management…sans human capital. User culture will become multi-sensory, as digital technology transcends behavior responsiveness.

Shapeshifters teleport deep into the human psyche as post-mortem cyborgs intuitively track user migration toward unnavigated web sectors (ergo eternity). Virtual designers post-construct our digital experience and, in the process, self-/co-create and viralize the omniverse. Human thought is rendered obsolete as augmented data decimates theoretical relativity.

As post-apocalyptic users, how will we feel and process the inevitable – an existential shift from organicity to digitopia? How shall we determine and our browsing instincts sans emotionality in the midst of the digital monetization of conglomeration? Extending beyond collectivism – this Internet (War) of Things (IWOT)..or is it the Internet War ON Things (i.e., the digital piratization of tactile spaces mutating into an emotionless omnipresence)?

Poetic essay from Kahlil Crawford

REDD ARMOIRE

home – a desolate block – died inside of me at Newport Beach where I witnessed a miniature Versailles sidewalk surfing, and learned the fitness virtues of surfboards & yellowtail.

never mind the grungy beachside citizens wading along the oil-contaminated surf- “we’ve still got the best waves” – as evidenced by the splattering of surfer bars and nascent Brazilian cafes.

bikini-clad girls in flip-flops and trucker hats parade up and down PCH and Main sans aim – purpose nor destiny – a quick pedal home toward paternal security

the surf shops hide away long forgotten legends of the tide and sand lamenting an old glory that never was – only imagined.

see, the preservation of a local culture is drowned out not by waves and songs of the seagull, but by corporate cranes migrating North.

Oceanside, California

Essay from Kahlil Crawford

GREEN MOUNTAIN

I’ll never forget my first adult glimpse of Lake Champlain and New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The sight captivated me to the point of postponing my trip to Montreal, so as to explore the state of Vermont – a spacious museum of pristine nature and “New English” culture.

Being a Chicagoan curious about small-town America and personal (ethnic) identity, in Vermont I commenced what would become a living tour of far-North American history.

I visited people, places, and circumstances I had previously only heard and read about – particularly the impoverished “Yankees” of the Appalachian North. I often tell people Vermont has the worst poverty I have ever seen – it brought me to tears.

In many Vermont towns, pickup trucks blasting country music are paramount – cultural characteristics I always attached to the south(west). This amazed me because the history books always portrayed Yankees and Confederates as culturally polar opposites.

I befriended an older Italian-American woman named Mary. A child of Italian immigrants, and in great physical condition; she took me to her family cabin, high in the mountains, and shared tales of tearing up the NYC dance clubs during the 50’s and 60’s.

She also shared her family’s struggle – that of able-bodied Abruzzi men arriving to America with New York-sized hopes and dreams, only to spend the rest of their lives digging ditches to feed their families. The lucky ones made way to Argentina and fared much better.