"Shinders to Shinders," a 1982 short film directed by (then) 27-year-old photographer Daniel Polsfuss, is a surreal fantasy tribute to the notoriously daring, dark and sleazy "Block E" in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. Much like a parallel to Prince's Purple Rain, this film serves as a time capsule to the early '80s, with its dance choreography, hip-hop, pinball, funky hair, and dirty streets.
It's probably hard to imagine that Minnesota - the "wonder bread" capitol of dull, safe blandness - could have a sleazy city block straight outta Manhattan. But Block E was such a place. Its businesses included a Shinders bookstore (one of two on Hennepin Avenue, hence the title), a McDonald's, a record store, a famously dangerous dive bar ("Moby Dick's), and various sex shops that once plagued downtown streets. The wrecking ball, and the internet, drove everything to extinction in time.
In 1988, Block E was demolished, viewed by the city as an embarrassment and an eyesore. The lot remained empty for over a dozen years. What finally replaced Block E? A lousy, dull, soulless, witless suburban shopping mall, containing a number of equally dull and soulless franchise restaurants. They all failed, and the "Disney" version of the block languished for years as well. Today, in 2015, the site is being rebuilt again, this time as a Mayo Sports Clinic and practice space for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx basketball teams. The beloved Kieran's Pub remains in the back, across from the Target Center, and it's one of the best pubs in Minnepolis.
Ah, well. The history of downtown Minneapolis is replete with such stories, of crazy, dangerous, but fully alive blocks demolished to make way for the wonder bread suburbans, who hide inside the skyway hamster rubes, looking for another Applebee's. It's a lot of back and forth. We look to the young Millennial Generation to turn the page once again, as they flow back into downtown, revitalizing districts that have been all but abandoned for decades. I certainly wouldn't want to see the sleazy sex shops return, nor the drug dealers. But I certainly want for something more than just another indoor mall.
Sleep tight, kids. Enjoy the time capsule, and realize that this is how your parents once dressed when they were your age. Try not to laugh to loudly.