A Not So Bad Audition

The other day I auditioned for some independent film, at an old warehouse or factory building in northeast. Northeast Minneapolis, that is. Or also known as Nordeast. After living here for 20+ years I’ve finally started to find my way around that part of the city, and I don’t get lost up there nearly as much as I once did. I’m not directionally challenged in most of the world, except for a small area of Minneapolis on the other side of the river.

It was sort of an audition. More like an audition/interview. There was no camera recording me, even though this was a film audition, and strangely, think I was the most calm and confident person in the tiny studio. The writer/director seemed nervous and not sure how to go about any of this. The other person (whose position wasn’t made clear to me) was more confident, and tried to act like she knew what she was doing, even though she clearly questioned herself.

Not unlike a set of red lips along a highway

All this was fine with me—I don’t mind when others are nervous. In fact, I often wish everyone else were nervous most of the time and not me.

What would life be like then? Perhaps discomforting.

But I digress. I didn’t end up getting it.

So what does all this have to do with this picture?

Nothing really.

Except that on this beautiful afternoon when I went on this audition and as I was walking back to my car I noticed how prominent the General Mills building was on the skyline in that part of the city. In some weird way it made me think of the Magikist sign off the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago, which is sadly no longer there. (The sign, I mean, not the expressway. Or Chicago.) And it didn’t remind of that because a set of big lips are like tall white mills but because it seems so brazen, so distinct against the back drop. You drive past it every day, see it all the time, and don’t really acknowledge its presence.

I stopped a moment at my car as I tossed my stuff in to the back seat and I thought, “Well, I don’t think I’m what they’re looking for, but it’s a lovely day and it wasn’t a bad audition and I’ve met some new people, so life’s not so bad. And hey—that’s kind of a cool view!”

So I took a picture.

General Mills. “Life’s not so bad.”

History in Front of Me


behind the Pillsbury mills


This picture was taken with my phone’s camera. We were shooting a film across the river near the old Pillsbury mills. We were waiting for the sun to get to the right position. Most grain processing buildings like from this era are built of large, limestone blocks. I was struck that this place is regular, red brick. The building to the right is in such disrepair the owner said we shouldn’t stand too close to it.

Picture Yourself…

On my morning drive to work I often pass through the industrial milling section of south Minneapolis. It’s like a tiny version of Chicago’s steel mills, but cleaner. About four blocks of grain mills, half of which are the now abandoned Purina dog food plant I’ve mentioned before. These old mills rise high in the air, like industrial behemoths looking down on the busy artery of Hiawatha Avenue with its boulevard like structure and the light rail line that runs alongside it.

Also sometimes on my morning commute I listen to The Current, the eclectic music-lover’s version of Minnesota Public Radio. This morning the topic at hand included the latest release of Rock Band with music by the Beatles. After they made fun of one person’s obsession with the Sgt. Peppers album, all the while glorifying the talent of the fab-four, they played some music.

I’m sitting at a red light, listening to this, watching people getting to work, getting on and off the train, sitting in their cars at the light. One woman walks along the sidewalk, talking on a cell phone. She has a small girl (a 3-year-old?) walking beside her, and she cradles the phone while reaching down to pick up the kid and jay walk through stopped traffic.

Suddenly a low bass guitar is filling the car, and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is playing. As if on cue, during the slow, melodic, drug-induced-sounding portions of the song, a huge flock of pigeons swoops up from the roof of one of the grain mills, flying one direction then the next, up and down, left and right. Virtually in time with the music, and then float over the tops and disappear on the other side.

Refrain. Lucy in the sky with diamonds….Lucy in the sky with diamonds….

That was unexpected. But the pigeons were apparetnly listening to the same station or could hear my radio, because at the next “Picture yourself…” here they come again. Up from the other side, swooping in a fluctuating, ball-shaped mass. Above the mills, along the walls, up again, down again, and again out of site.

Refrain. Lucy in the sky with diamonds….Lucy in the sky with diamonds….

Finally the light changed, and we all moved on with our day.

Dog Food and Art

I live in neighborhood that, up until about 5 years ago, had an active Purina factory about a half-mile away. On a humid July morning, when the wind was just right, a warm wafting, the scent of fresh dog food, wound its way through every block and through our open windows. In some ways, it was the only thing that made me want to go to work. Downtown.

The Purina mills and factory sat across 38th St. from ADM (“Supermarket to the World”), alongside an old, but still used, set of railroad tracks. These days the place is abandoned, and some demolition equipment has been sitting alongside it for months, as if this decades old building is going to be razed at any moment. Purina + ADM = approximately three solid city blocks of industrial mills. They’re full of windows and doors and stairways, broken glass, old brick, graffiti.

I mention all this because….it inspires me. I want to get up early some day, and head over there and shoot a bunch of pictures to capture its towering mills, its broken or boarded up windows, it’s weed-filled-cracks that run the length of the decades old brick walls. To capture its history. Before it’s gone.

I think at one point it was supposed to become…wait for it…a site for a new condo! No, really. But now it seems unknown what will happen. I can’t be sure it’s going to disappear this summer.

Perhaps someone should buy it from whoever owns it. For like, $10. And create an arts complex. A new performance space, a  series of studios and rehearsal spaces, an art gallery, class rooms. Ok, maybe more than $10, but still. Take it over.

Give me the money and I’ll make it happen.

But for now, I’ll capture its spirit in a photo or two. Maybe I’ll do that this weekend, and post something next week.