The dangers of experiencing life through the goggles of blind progress or through the rose-colored lens of nostalgia, the dissolution of community, gentrification and its ramifications--intended and unintentional--are some recurring themes in my Black Hawk fiction. When I found out that AWP was going to take place in Minneapolis this year, there was one sight I wanted to see...
When I wrote "Shangri La Dee Da," a story about a lonely man chasing the dream of never-ending McDonalds McRib sandwiches (ironically, not a Black Hawk story), I used Google Street View to get a sense of the neighborhoods throughout the Midwest which the narrator visits. When I explored the neighborhood around the McDonalds at 548 W Jefferson Ave in St Paul, I was in for two pleasant surprises. I came across a giant mockup of an old bottle of Grain Belt Lager. The details of that advertisement and of Grain Belt's slogan, "The Friendly Beer" spoke to me and informed me in some way about the desire for human connection my narrator was seeking. And across the street from the Grain Belt advertisement was what appeared to be a decrepit brewery. That structure and Bay City, Michigan's city hall became models for Black Hawk's La Mancha brewery.
I clicked on Google Maps Street View this morning in preparation for my visit this weekend. The giant beer bottle is still there, but the accompanying signage now advertises Schmidt Artist Lofts. And a quick scroll across the street reveals the old brewery reborn as trendy condos for hipsters "with champagne tastes on a beer budget."
And so it goes.