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Archived Newsletter Content


Newsletter #123 September November, 2018

Award News

        The Nebula Award winners included Best Novel to The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin ($16.99) and Best Novella to All Systems Red by Martha Wells ($14.99)

        The Locus Awards included Best SF Novel to The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi ($9.99), Best Fantasy Novel to The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin ($16.99), Best Horror Novel to The Changeling by Victor LaValle ($18.00), Best First Novel to The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss ($16.99), Best Young Adult Book to Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor ($18.99, $11.99 trade pb due in October), and Best Novella to All Systems Red by Martha Wells ($14.99).

How’s Business
by Don Blyly

        I thought that the worst thing about Memorial Day would be the forecasted high of 100 degrees. But I woke up Monday morning and turned on the news to see that the former Roberts Shoes building at the corner of Chicago and Lake had burnt down overnight. The building, built in 1895, had all retail on the first floor and two upper floors of spaces rented out for art studios, recording studios, and a dance studio on the third floor. The fire started in the basement around 10:30 Sunday night. One of the artists on the second floor smelled the smoke and went from door to door telling the other artists to get out of the building, so no lives were lost. But many of the artists lost up to a decade of work. By the time the fire department arrived the wooden floors of the first floor was not trustworthy enough for the firemen to be able to fight the fire from inside the building. so they poured massive amounts of water on the building from the outside. After a few hours they got the fire put out, but the roof on the east side of the building had collapsed all the way down to the first floor and the roof on the west side had collapsed down to the second floor. Around 5 am the collapsed roof re-ignited, and the fire department had to put it out again.
        I had been planning to go to the Uncles for a few hours on Memorial Day to work on some mail orders and to catch up on some paperwork, so I loaded Ecko into the car and tried to get to the store around 8 am. A four block section of Lake Street was blocked off, a three block section of Chicago was blocked off, and some other nearly blocks were blocked off. I finally found a parking spot three blocks from the store, and Ecko and I hiked over to the Uncles. There was still some smoke in the air, but the smoke was very bad inside the Uncles. The fire was south of the Uncles, the wind was out of the south all night, and the roof-top air conditioners at the Uncles are designed to compare the temperature of the outside air to the inside air. If the air conditioner is turned on, and the outside air is cooler than the inside air, the air condition pumps the cooler outside air into the building instead of circulating the inside air across the heat exchange coils. I went to the roof to change the air filters. Uncle Hugo’s filters were merely very dirty; Uncle Edgar’s filters were completely black and crusty. While the new air filters tried to clean the air in the Uncles, Ecko and I walked up to take a closer look at the ruins. The fire had not spread to the single story building to the north (formerly Sunny’s bar and restaurant), but the front of the building was blackened from the smoke. It also had not spread to the single story building across the alley. But the Roberts Shoes building was obviously a total loss, with three stories of brick still standing, surrounding the heaps of rubble. We went back to the Uncles, I packed some mail orders, but decided the smoky smell was too bad to spend time doing paperwork, so we left more quickly than I had planned. As we walked back to the car, I saw a police car parked at the blockade at Chicago and 28th, with a officer inside with his windows rolled down. I went over to talk with him about the fire, and about my being able to get my car to my business. He said that the Roberts Shoe building was such a hazard that the city would probably be taking it down before the end of the day. He said that the former Sunny’s building probably had so much smoke and water damage that it would probably also come down eventually. And he said that it would not be a problem for me to drive my car around the “street closed” signs to get to my business.
        The next morning I heard on the news that the city had given the owner of the Roberts Shoes building one day to consult with structural engineers to see if it would be possible to repair the ruins. I suspect that everybody knew that this would be impossible, but the city couldn’t find any company that could assemble a crew on Memorial Day to take down the building in 100 degree heat, so they gave the owner the option while they arranged for the building to be torn down on Tuesday. Tuesday mid-afternoon the utility people came in to disconnect the power cables, the gas line, and the water line to the building, and late Tuesday the demolition began. They started at the alley side of the building, and some of the debris fell onto the roof of the single story building across the alley, penetrated the roof, and burst some pipes (I assume pipes about the ceiling for a sprinkler system), causing extensive damage. Late Wednesday afternoon all of the brick walls had been knocked down and some of the rubble had been hauled away. A chain-link fence was put up around the site, with the remaining smokey rubble in piles up to five foot tall, and the streets were opened again.
        The Roberts Shoes building has been an important part of the neighborhood for a long time. Roberts Shoes anchored the corner for 77 years. I read a report that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was written in the building. Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre spent some time there. A fundraiser was quickly started to help the many artists who lost years of work and all their equipment to the fire (and many of them did not have insurance).
        One of our people wandered up to the corner while the building was being demolished and reported that the real estate speculators were gathering like vultures, talking about what they might be able to build there and how cheaply they might be able to get the land.
        During the first round of demolition, they found the file cabinet of the guy who rented the dance studio, very battered but not burnt, so he was able to recover his passport and his business records. Later in the day, they also found his safe. Most of the other tenants were not so lucky.
        Four weeks after the fire (and after many thunderstorms had soaked the rubble), the insurance company finally moved in to try to determine the cause of the fire. They brought in heavy equipment to carefully dig through the rubble, looking for clues, and spraying treated water from a tanker truck which wiped out the smoky smell for about a month. The owner expected the insurance company to then hauling away about 100 truck loads of rubble and then bring in about 100 truck loads the dirt to fill the hole. Instead, the insurance company took away the heavy equipment after two days, leaving all the rubble in place.
        About a month after the insurance inspectors went away, “Site Available for Development” signs appeared on the chain link fence around the rubble. The city has wanted for decades to clear away all the single story property on this block of Chicago Ave. and replace it with 4-5 story buildings with retail on the first floor and apartments or condos up above. The owner of the Roberts Shoe building says that he thinks the guy who owns the heavily damaged building to the north would love to get a decent offer for his building, and the owner of the next 2 single story buildings has been trying to get a decent offer for his buildings for decades. Back around 1990 the city asked developers to come up with proposals to tear down the entire block and replace it with 4-5 story buildings, but at that time the proposal was that the city would buy all the land through foreclosure (and pay relocation expenses to all the displaced businesses) and then sell the land at a big discount to a developer, and the math did not work to support that proposal. If a private developer were to buy the land from willing sellers and not pay relocation expenses, and with the most expensive parcel already reduced to rubble, the math would look a lot different. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years.

        We are once again participating in the Hennepin County “Choose to Reuse” program. The coupon book has coupons for many stores that carry used merchandise, as well as companies that rent equipment or repair stuff. The deals vary from store to store, but 20% off for used stuff is most common. The coupons are valid August 1 to October 31, 2018. We have a display of the coupon books right inside our front door, but they are also being distributed at many Hennepin County locations. It’s also supposed to be possible to download the coupons with a smart phone, but I think we only had one person use a smart phone coupon in the last 2 years. The coupons are only good for in-store sales, not for mail orders.

Book Signing

        D. J. (Dave) Butler will be signing at Uncle Hugo’s on Tuesday, September 11, 5-6 pm. As D. J. Butler he has written Witchy Eye and Witchy Winter (both recommended in the last issue of the Newsletter) and a bunch of books from small presses. As Dave Butler he has written a middle reader steampunk fantasy series: The Kidnap Plot, The Giant’s Seat, and The Library Machine (which just happens to be coming out the day of the signing). Dave is planning to bring along a bunch of his small press books, sing a few songs, do a reading from the Witchy series, and then sign books.

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