Minnesota, USA

Street-Parking People

One morning a couple winters ago I was at my girlfriend’s basement apartment in Uptown, Minneapolis, getting ready to go to the gym. It was a weekday, but I was fresh out of grad school and still without a job, so a mid-morning gym visit was a good way to be productive with my time. I threw on my coat and went outside.

The night had brought a heavy snowfall. It coated the tree branches, the sidewalks, and the empty streets. The empty streets. Weirdly empty. Sure it was a weekday and many of the cars that normally lined the crowded avenue were likely in the garages and parking lots that accompany the work places of their owners, but that alone could not explain this emptiness. And then it hit me: the snowfall. There must have been a snow emergency declared. The streets needed to be plowed. Any cars parked on a declared “snow emergency route” would be towed at the owners expense. One of those cars was mine.

I got a ride to the Minneapolis impound lot where my car was being held. The line was literally out the door, and judging by the number of cars being towed in behind me, it wasn’t going to get any shorter.

Moods ranged from mildly annoyed to outright furious. It’s not the way that any of us wanted to spend our Tuesday mornings. But aside from our shared anger and frustration, there were other common elements amongst the people with whom I shared that room: the worn clothes, the tired eyes, the unkempt hair…And it was in those moments that a wave of class consciousness swept over me: all the people in that room were people who could ill afford to be there. They were people who were really going to struggle to pay the $138 standard tow charge, and who were even going to struggle more to make up the half-day of work they were likely missing.

It is not a coincidence that most of the people in that room were from the working class. That’s not to say that the city specifically targets working class people when doing its street sweeps, but it is to say that working class people are much more likely to be parked on the street than people of higher social classes.

It’s not that working class people like to park on the street, they park there out of necessity. Working class people are less likely to live in a place that has its own driveway. Working class people are less likely to be able to afford private parking spaces, or ramps, or garages. Working class people come from harder economic circumstances, and consequently, working class people are going to be much more hurt by any street-parking fine. $138 buys a lot of groceries. $138 buys a lot of gas.

As I said previously, I was jobless at the time. The charge sucked, but I managed to pay it without being thrown into financial crisis. I don’t know if I can say the same for all of my working class brethren.

I have since obtained full-time employment, but I’ve been thinking about that day a lot in recent weeks. I still park on the street, and over the last two weeks, I have received two parking tickets. I won’t bore you with the details, but both tickets came in situations where the charge was murky, and where the enforcement is clearly inconsistent, seeing as how I have gotten away with both “offenses” scot-free literally dozens of times over the year that I have lived at my current apartment. Maybe the City of Minneapolis has stepped up reinforcement, maybe they’re trying to make up for a budget shortfall, or maybe they just recently hired a dickhead to patrol my neighborhood.

The fines were $32 and $42, respectively. These fines don’t kill me, but they still hurt, even as someone who has ascended into a relatively comfortable middle-class living.

And while, for me, these fines are annoying and frustrating and will likely force me to skip a social outing or two over my next pay cycle, I know that there are families on my block who would be hit much harder than me, who rather than skipping social outings, might instead be skipping meals, or coming up short on overdue bills.

And the problem isn’t that there are punishments for street-parking violations. Of course our city needs them to maintain some semblance of order. The problem is that these punishments are far too severe, especially considering the economic circumstances surrounding many street-parking people. $138 for the city to essentially steal my car?!?! I get it that the streets need to be plowed, and that a tow costs the city money, but doesn’t $138 seem a little extreme for an innocent mistake that has already totally fucked up the day of the offender? $32 for parking within five feet of a driveway?!?!? How about $10? Better yet, how about a frickin’ warning?

Street-parking people usually are not trying to break the law. They are just people trying to make it: recently graduated colleges students working that first job trying to pay off their student loan debt, single mothers and fathers trying to support a family and put healthy meals on the table, adults with two jobs coming home late from a night shift, just trying to find parking so they can go to bed and do it again the next day.  They are people with enough money to afford a car, but not necessarily enough money to pay the fines that a car can currently get them. So take it easy on your street-parking people, Minneapolis. Chances are that they are already struggling in one way or another, but that doesn’t mean that they will be struggling perpetually, at least so long as their city’s semi-insensitive policies don’t force them to be.

Follow me on Twitter!!!

Minnesota, Sports

How I think I can maybe try to justify celebrating an Adrian Peterson touchdown

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!?!?!? We Minnesotans are. With the return of Teddy Bridgewater poised to build on his highly successful rookie season, the addition of speedy wide receiver Mike Wallace to give Teddy that deep threat and, as the experts like to say, take the top off the defense, and another anticipated year of defensive improvement under the auspices of head coach and defensive guru Mike Zimmer, the Minnesota Vikings are almost a lock to win the division, the Super Bowl, and launch a dynasty that will undoubtedly endure well into the next decade.

All this and I haven’t even mentioned our secret weapon: former MVP and freak of nature Adrian Peterson, who coming off a year of rest and resentment, looks again ready to transcend the limitations of age and physics and have a career year at 30 years old. But there is a problem with our secret weapon, and it has nothing to do with what he does on the football field. The problem is how we as fans can justify cheering for a man who, less than a year ago, beat the shit out of his own child with a tree branch.

This is not a problem for all Vikings fans. Some people are better at separating their moral compasses from their purple pride than others. But for those of us who struggle with said separation, the Minnesota Vikings, and the National Football League in general, are becoming more difficult to watch. Between the less-than-admirable off-the-field behavior of far too many players, the hostage holding of fans and taxpayers by billionaire owners to get stadiums built that enrich the owners while leaving the un-rich unable to afford entrance to stadium that their tax dollars paid for, and the increasing body of knowledge about head injuries that makes the game of professional football feel like a blood sport unseen since the times of the Roman Empire, there are a wealth of reasons for the morally righteous to leave their TV’s turned off on Sundays.


But perhaps for the purple, there is a justification—a way to celebrate an Adrian Peterson touchdown while keeping one’s moral compass intact.

First, a disclaimer: the sport of professional football and any importance that we attach to it pales in comparison to the importance of the domestic issues at play in this story, first and foremost of which is the health and well-being of Adrian Peterson’s son. Though this article is, in essence, a football take, this take is not being made in negligence nor ignorance of what is really important.

Back to morality. The struggle I personally have has nothing to do with Adrian Peterson the player and everything to do with Adrian Peterson the person. Like everybody, I was horrified last year when news of the events surfaced, and even more horrified upon seeing the pictures. But what I was never onboard with were the Adrian Peterson character assassinations, the people who declared Adrian Peterson a bad person, or even a monster.

Don’t get me wrong. What Adrian Peterson did to his son was abhorrent and unequivocally wrong, both legally and morally. I supported all sanctions and punishments levied by both the NFL and the legal system, and would definitely put myself in the crowd that believed said sanctions and punishments did not go far enough. That being said, I do not feel that, in spite of the horrifying results of his actions, I can condemn Adrian Peterson as a human being.

To flesh out this sentiment, it is perhaps best to offer a comparison between the actions of Adrian Peterson and the actions of the other NFL bad guy from 2014, Ray Rice. On September 8, 2014, a video surfaced of Ray Rice knocking out his then fiancé Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City elevator. The case of Rice and Peterson share many similarities: both are cases of domestic abuse, both are cases in which the victim was relatively defenseless…But there is one key difference, a difference which, I believe, should be taken into account when we judge Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice as human beings, and in turn, how we feel about them as players on our football teams.

The key difference is the moral context in which the two men committed their abuses. By this I mean the two men’s understanding of morality, what is right and what is wrong. When Ray Rice punched his fiancé in the face, he knew it was wrong. He knew it before he did it, he knew it when he did it, and he knew it after he did it. It may have been a momentary lapse in judgment, a brief break with Rice’s normally upstanding character, but either way, Rice consciously made a decision that he knew to be morally incorrect.

Adrian Peterson’s situation is different. When Adrian Peterson laid his child over his knee and proceeded to brutally beat his legs and buttocks with a stick, he was not only ignorant to the fact that what he was doing was wrong, he believed that what he was doing was right. Adrian Peterson truly believed that what he was doing was what a morally correct father does in order to ensure that his son grows up to himself become a morally correct human being.

Does this excuse Adrian Peterson’s actions? Absolutely not. As I stated above, Adrian Peterson deserved every punishment and sanction he received from both the NFL and the legal system, and probably deserved worse. However, it does change the way that I personally look at Adrian as a human being.

Adrian Peterson was a prisoner to the ignorance in which he was raised (all of us are, really.) He was raised in a culture where the use of a switch was both a tolerated and encouraged form of discipline. His father beat him as a child, and he turned out alright. In Adrian’s mind, he was just doing what good dads do.

Ray Rice is different. Ray Rice may or may not have witnessed spousal abuse growing up. I don’t know. But what I do know is that if he did witness spousal abuse, he was never under the impression that that was an OK thing to do. There is not a place in the United States where spousal abuse is not taboo. It may be something that in some parts is tragically common, but nowhere is it something that is morally correct. Spanking, on the other hand, is.

Thankfully, that is changing. If there is anything good that came from the Adrian Peterson case, it is the national awareness that was hopefully raised about the fact that hitting your children, even on the butt, is indeed child abuse and is never OK. Furthermore, we desperately, desperately hope that Adrian Peterson has learned from his grave mistakes, and that future beatings that his son may have received will now never happen.

But all things considered, can we justify rooting for Adrian Peterson? Has Adrian Peterson truly learned his lesson? Some of his own ill-timed comments would suggest that he hasn’t, but he has apologized numerous times and claims to be a reformed man and father.

You may believe, as I do, that his sentence should have been much more severe, but the fact is that his sentence has been served. He deserves a second chance. I just wish that second chance would have been somewhere else.

I’ll still be watching on Sundays, offering my patronage to a league, a sport, and a team that fly in the face of many of my moral values. I’m a hypocrite like that. As for Adrian, we’ll see how I feel after he scores that first touchdown. Maybe having him on my fantasy football team would help to counteract some of the guilt I might feel.

So in closing, will I cheer for Adrian Peterson? Probably. He’s a Viking, and I bleed purple no matter which direction my moral compass points. And, am I ready for some football? I guess. But not as ready as I used to be.

Follow me on Twitter!!!