City life not all it’s cracked up to be

The city is a dangerous place. Most everyone knows cities are the centers of crime, pestilence and indecency. In the city, people are unfriendly, devoid of values and definitely not Minnesotan.
I’ve always known these facts about Minneapolis, but I never realized their full meanings until I moved deeper into Minneapolis and met the dirty rotten people for myself.
I used to live in the southern end of Bloomington, far away from the problems of the big city. Now I’ve moved into the belly of the beast, right between 38th and 37th streets just three blocks from Chicago Ave.
“Wow, what a dangerous neighborhood,” said one of my friends, who lives just off Nicollet on 26th Street. “You’d better buy a gun.”
I’ve never been a supporter of firearms, and therefore refused to purchase one despite my friend’s sound advice. Some kind of cold, blue steel comfort would have been nice, however, when I got my first taste of the neighborhood I was about to move into.
It was the night of the lunar eclipse two weekends ago. I was being shown the apartment when I noticed my new neighbor putting up a telescope in his front yard to observe the Hale-Bopp comet. Against my better judgment, I decided to introduce myself. As when approaching an unfriendly attack dog, I decided it was best not to show fear, no matter how much he tried to intimidate me.
His name was Joe. So far so good. He offered me a peek at the comet. “Have a look,” he said. Careful to keep one eye on the comet and the other on him, I took a quick glance through his reflecting telescope. Eventually, more neighbors arrived. I met Bob and Sarah who live just down the hall.
“Hi, nice to meet the neighbors,” said Bob, and we shook hands.
I smiled as best I could, trying to hold back the snarl, knowing what he really meant to say was, “I’m gonna cut you open in your sleep!”
“So, what do you do, Bob?” I asked him, fully expecting to hear the words “crack dealer” or “hit man.” I should have known he’d have a cover story.
“Oh, I go to school full time and work full time,” he chuckled, obviously amused at his own brilliance in coming up with such a clever guise.
“Keeps me busy,” he added.
Yeah, I’ll bet he keeps busy. I know I’ll be getting no sleep at night with this hoodlum down the hall.
This tense encounter was such a stark contrast from when I met my first new neighbor in the southwestern suburb of Bloomington. I was unpacking my things from the car when a woman walked across the parking lot near me and asked if I was moving in. I said yes, and then she said something that gave me a warm glow all over.
“You better be sure to roll up the windows in your car at night. Somebody’s car got stolen out of this damn parking lot a week ago!” she said, and then continued on her way.
Having grown up in North Dakota, you can imagine my delight when I finally saw the “Minnesota nice” in action. It was more than friendly, good advice. The gruff, condescending tone she used showed me that she honestly cared about my well-being in addition to the well-being of my automobile.
Only in the suburbs and small towns of Midwestern states does one find such endearing people. It reminded me of the small town I grew up in. The neighbors there were also full of good, sensible, free advice, like my old neighbor who quipped, “You better keep your dog tied up, cause if I see her in this yard she’s gonna get shot!”
Yes, this suburban woman was a throwback to those carefree, small-town days of my youth. Every time I saw her I was greeted with a look and some surly remark that just made my day.
Still, my odyssey into the wicked city was not over. The danger and evil of the city does not only have a human face, but an inhuman one.
I’ve heard about pestilence in the city such as rats, cockroaches and street preachers. However, I was totally unprepared for the horrific reality I was about to face. As soon as I was moved in I saw them. Two of them. Ants. Big ones.
The old tenants had even left behind an ant trap, a symbol, perhaps, of the war against pests they must have fought tooth and nail until they finally lost and were forced to move out, leaving me the burden of continuing the struggle.
Now that I know my apartment is infested, I can do nothing but wait in fear, wondering what horrific creatures I may find crawling on the walls, floors and ceilings of my new place.
Admittedly, there are certain advantages to living in the city, such as being closer to museums, concert halls and cultural centers.
Accessibility to these centers of liberal arts and ideals isn’t nearly enriching as living next to the Mega Mall, Byerly’s or TGI Fridays, however. Who needs the Guthrie and Walker Art Gallery when you’ve got Camp Snoopy and a carpeted frozen foods section.
I’m no longer in that world now, and when I crawl into my ant-infested bed at night I smile, happy that I can count myself among the wretched city dwellers.

Chris Druckenmiller is a Daily columnist. His column appears Wednesday’s in the Daily.